Does your child make your dining experience a nightmare?
After slaving away in the kitchen and presenting your child with a delicious meal does he/she turn their nose up and push the plate away or even throw you food on the floor?
Do you feel you are constantly battling, never wining and want to pull your own hair out, every time you are faced with breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Let me reassure you, that you are definitely not alone in this world. There are so many parents that experience the same issues when it comes to feeding their child…I like to call it ‘fussy eaters’. For parents, meal times can often be the most stressful part of the day. It can be concerning because parents worry their little bubs are not getting all the nutrition they need for optimum growth and their diet is not incorporating all of the 5 food groups.
A common questions parents ask, why is my child fussy with eating?
- Your child’s appetite could be affected by growth cycles, it is normal from 1-5years of age for your child to be very hungry one day and then picky the next day.
- Children’s choice of food can change daily, as their taste buds are adjusting. It is normal for your child to like one food for one week and then refuse another
- Children are active and cannot determine the feeling of hunger and always need prompting
- Children learn by testing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. They can be very strong-willed when it comes to making decisions about food, as it can be a way of communicating something else. It’s all part of their social, intellectual and emotional development.
My 8 No-Nonsense Strategies to combat fussy eating:
1. Do Not Bribe:
Never bribe with ‘junk’ food, this will set up bad habits and expectations. It can be the easy route to offer sugary, fatty or salty snacks as substitutes and this could lead to refusing all healthy foods altogether. Children are smart, they know what the tastier options are!
2. Create a pleasant atmosphere during meal times
Try to eat dinner as a family, studies have shown children that eat with their parents have better vocabularies, more concentration, healthier diets and better grades! More importantly, when eating together make meal times enjoyable, fun and social occasion. Serve the family the same foods and create positive actions and talk when eating your meal e.g. how delicious is this chicken and carrot? Your children watching you enjoy foods will encourage them to do the same. It is a good idea to turn the TV off and engage with each other.
3. Independence with foods
Allow your child to choose food choices within a healthy range, offer 2-3 options e.g. what fruit would you like, grapes or bananas? Another good idea is to get your child involved with cooking, allow them to stir or encourage them to look through cook books that are bright.
4. Avoid sneaking in vegetables or fruit
Children are not stupid, they know if you are trying to finely chop carrots into their sauces! I try and tell parents if your child is extremely fussy then start hiding in foods. Firstly, it is a lot of effort for your to continue to grate everything, instead make your child aware of the foods they are eating. Encourage positive language when eating healthy foods and make it fun e.g. cut vegetables or fruits in fun shapes. Worst case scenario, your child refuses EVERYTHING, you will need to hide and sneak the vegies into meals!
5. Encourage food play
Little fingers poking at foods, throwing foods, smell foods will hopefully lead to bringing food to the mouth. Allow your child to get messy during meal times, this will lead to fun and positive environments.
6. The try it once rule
Introduce new foods with familiar foods, e.g. carrots with a piece of broccoli. On their plate add a small portion of a new food, so your child is not overwhelmed. Continue to offer the new food and eventually he/she may try it, for children it can take up to 7-10 times before they bring the food to their mouth….be persistence, do not give up and get frustrated! Allow your child to eat off your plate or eat new foods with other children if possible.
7. Your child with not starve
At the end of the day, children are active! It is hard for parents, to see but if your child refuses food take it away and do not offer a food to the next meal. At the next meal you might find they will be so hungry they will eat all their meal.
8. Work up a appetite
Hunger is the best sauce. If your child is hungry, they are more likely to appreciate their dinner. Avoid grazing in between meals, offer fruit or vegetables if necessary. Working up a healthy appetite never harmed anyone.
Remember: You are NOT alone, just be calm and breath! And hopefully this will happen…..