KidiHealth’s Top Tips to Tackle Fussy Eaters

Fussy Eaters

All of us here at KidiHealth naturally want all children to be happy, healthy and well behaved. Unfortunately, while we all do our best to raise well-adjusted children, there are those who struggle with one thing or another, and for some, fussy eating is a big issue.

When it comes time to wean your baby onto solid food, many parents find that things at first go well, your baby enjoys the new experiences that each meal time brings and while a lot of your carefully prepared meals end up everywhere but in the mouth, babies are generally pretty keen to try new things and even the foods that they don’t take initially will usually become acceptable after a few attempts.

For many parents, the real problems are yet to come. As your baby develops into a toddler and you offer a wider variety of soft and solid food of varying colours, textures and tastes, some toddlers suddenly decide that unless it’s pasta with butter, it’s not going in.

For parents, mealtimes can often turn into an anxious battle of wills. You worry about their nutritional intake, how it affects their growth and equally, and how much behaviour becomes an issue.

Children, even the very young, learn quickly what they can and cannot do, and where their boundaries are set. As parents, it’s hard enough getting through the day-to-day challenges of getting out the door, attending various activities or doing the school run. Meal times don’t have to be stressful, but getting the balance right from the start takes some hard work and commitment on your part.

Setting some ground rules is key to ensuring that your plan of action starts and continues successfully. It will be challenging at first, as these habits were not created in a day. If they cry or protest enough, they will eventually get the meal they prefer, and this sometimes means that you can find yourself cooking various meals much like a short order cook rather than being able to enjoy happy mealtimes around the table as a family.

Timing is everything, and it is a good idea to give some real thought to just how you would like your children to eat and behave at mealtimes. KidiHealth recommends that you plan this with your family, and even toddlers can be involved in the discussion so that you are laying the foundations for change, and so everyone has plenty of time to understand the new meal plan and what’s to come. You may wish to draw up a weekly meal plan, including some food favourites, adding some new and exciting options to the menu.

KidiHealth suggests you consider the following when implementing your changes:

  • Plan all meals, including snacks.
  • Shop based on your plan to ensure that you have a variety of new dishes as well as some old favourites.
  • Eat as a family whenever possible; this not only leads by example but it also offers a great opportunity for quality family time.
  • Eat at the dining table if you have one available, as that will clearly define mealtimes.
  • Set some basic table rules, such as not leaving the table without being excused or until such time as a reasonable effort has been made to try new food or to eat a sensible amount of whatever is provided.
  • Be firm in your approach, as children are very aware of their boundaries; if you give in then they will learn how to push until you do every time.
  • If a meal isn’t eaten, offer fruit before bed to ensure that they have a healthy option and sustenance for a good night’s sleep.
  • Do not offer alternatives and do not cook multiple meals on request.

There no doubt will be times where you feel there is no point in carrying on and it’s just not worth the battle, but it is. Keep at it and you will soon see the results, usually within a couple of days but certainly within a week. If your child is ill or you have visitors over, it may be a better idea to offer an old favourite in place of something new. That is fine and perfectly acceptable, but as far as possible, stick to the general table rules-and-reward system to keep reinforcing the changes. Pick up again at the next meal time or the following day, and do not give in.

Vegetables are perhaps the biggest hurdle for many fussy eaters; they can be a challenge at the best of times. KidiHealth recommends that you involve your children in the process of selecting vegetables at the grocery store, get them home, show them how to wash them, peel them and how to slice or chop them. You can get as creative as you like, and your children will enjoy interacting and being part of the process.

The important thing is to get your children interested in food. They are far more likely to be open to trying new food if they have been involved from the start.

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