Whilst mealtimes are a great opportunity to spend uninterrupted quality time with your favourite little ones, feeding time doesn’t always turn out as planned; one day it’s clean plates and angel faces, the next it’s teatime tantrums and hungry tums.
When you’ve got a fussy eater to contend with, it’s easy to get locked in a battle of wills, and it’s so easy to feel frustrated and powerless when your toddler simply refuses to eat certain foods.
Most children go through a phase of fussy eating, whether it’s picking at their food before pushing their plate away, eating a few favourite foods, or flatly refusing to eat at meal times. Truth be told, ninety percent of children go through at least one lengthy stage of fussy eating.
While it can be frustrating when a child rejects the food we give them, it’s actually the way that we deal with the situation that impacts on their eating habits.
However, giving your children a limited number of foods will only escalate their fussiness, and deprive them of the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop.
Remember, you are not alone! Keep trying out new ideas and eventually you will see positive results. Don’t be afraid to quiz other mums on how they tackle fussy eating. I used to share my recipes at my son’s nursery and it felt so good to be able to help other mums in my position.
ANNABEL KARMEL’S TOP 10 TIPS FOR COPING WITH FUSSY EATERS
- It’s important to introduce as many foods as possible at an early age. You could try playing a game and blindfold your child before introducing a new food and ask him to guess what it is. Veggies can be a tricky one. Some kids can spot a hidden mushroom a mile off, so sometimes the best thing is to be up front about fruit and vegetables, tell them where they come from and why they are so good for you. Giving them facts could make them more interested about what they are eating. I used to offer a starter – a little teacup or saucer of something new that they could try that would be in addition to their main meal.
- It’s really important to hide your frustrations. Instead, give them lots of praise when they ate well or tried something new. Yes, this may mean that you have to ignore some of their bad behaviour and instead focus your attention on their good behaviour, but by doing this, mealtimes are likely to be less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Reward schemes like a sticker chart in the kitchen can work well with older children. Make the chart yourself perhaps decorating it with pictures of their favourite characters. Give your child a sticker for eating new foods. When they have collected a few stickers, reward them with a prize. The first one should be easily attainable to incentivise your child.
- Most children adore cooking and tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs are well within the capabilities of a young child. It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite. If your child refuses to eat anything other than junk food, don’t worry. They will soon find there’s not much point making a fuss if you don’t react.
- Avoid empty calorie snacks like crisps or soft drinks and keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand – maybe have a low shelf in the fridge with cut up fresh fruit and other healthy foods. When little ones are hungry, they won’t wait.
- Try making your own healthy junk food using good quality lean meat for burgers, English muffins for pizza bases and a good way to coat homemade fish fingers is to dip them in seasoned flour, beaten egg and crushed cornflakes. For dessert it’s easy to make fresh fruit ice lollies from fruit juice and pureed fruits.
- Without going to unnecessary lengths, try to make your child’s food not only tastes good but looks good too. Make mini portions in ramekins, make chicken skewers or thread bite sized pieces of fruit onto a straw.
- Most toddlers adore cooking and tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs are well within the capabilities of a young child. It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite. It’s also a great way to help children understand where the food they eat comes from. My kid’s used to get so excited growing cress in egg cups. Growing your own doesn’t require a huge garden or equipment, get your kids growing their own herbs or sprouting seeds in little pots on window shelves. Doing this can get them really excited about food.
- Children like to assemble their own food, so you could lay ingredients out in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps or choose their favourite toppings for their home made pizzas.
- If children will not eat vegetables, create recipes that vegetables can be blended into such as a tomato and vegetable sauce for pasta or mashed potato with carrot. What children can’t see, they can’t pick out. Also many children like eating with their fingers so serve vegetables like whole corn on the cob or carrot and cucumber sticks.