Accepting that mealtimes don’t always go to plan is the first step to helping your fussy eater grow.
According to a survey by healthcare company Abbott, fussy eating habits affect more than eight in 10 families across the UK. Often less about food and more about children exploring their environment and claiming independence, picky eating is actually part of a child’s development—but it can be frustrating to see your little one refuse anything that doesn't resemble macaroni and cheese. The way you deal with the situation impacts your child’s eating habits the most, and there are lots of tips and tricks to encourage your tot to enjoy a range of healthy foods.
Should I Be Worrying?
The general consensus is that children do not willingly starve themselves and are likely to grow out of this stage before their teenage years. If you’re worried that your child is not getting enough to eat, the NHS advises you to focus on what they are eating over the course of the week, instead of fretting about individual meals. If your child is active, gaining weight and looks healthy…well, then they’re getting enough.
Baby See, Baby do
Your child will copy and learn from you, so being a good role model could encourage them to try new things and take mealtimes seriously. Try to have similar meals and embrace a variety of foods, allowing them to assess any more ‘unknown’ options on your plate. Sitting down together and shutting off distractions will allow your child to associate mealtimes with food and security, but if you’re really stuck, cartoons could distract younger ones long enough to get them to eat.
Planning is Key
Try to establish what your family will be eating each day so that there is no room for deliberation. Create a weekly meal plan with your child and give them options to be excited about, helping them to write these up on a whiteboard. Schedule three main meals for each day and limit snacking to once or twice a day, at consistent intervals. Preparing salad in advance to keep on the table before meals could encourage hungry little ones to sample some healthy veggies.
Bribes or Rewards?
If your child tries something new, make sure to praise them. For example, implementing a sticker chart could be a great way to reinforce positive eating habits over time. Nevertheless, placing too much emphasis on urging your child to eat will encourage the idea that eating is a chore or a competition. Restrict praise for when your child tries something new—the act of eating
What Not To Say?
‘You're not getting any pudding unless you eat all your carrots’
Eating savoury foods should not have to be rushed and endured to get to sweeter treats. Bribing your child will only make the struggle seem like a game.
'Eat your broccoli please’
A study of university students whose parents had insisted they eat a certain food as a child found that 72 percent now didn't eat that food.
‘You’re such a fussy eater’
Being labelled as ‘fussy’ works as a great excuse to never have to try new things. If your child knows they aren’t expected to branch out of their comfort zone, they’ll start feeling that being fussy with food is just a part of who they are.
The Dos To Include
Get your fussy eater involved
A survey by the University of Alberta suggests that the best way to get your child to eat and enjoy healthier foods is to have them help with meal preparation. Squeezing oranges, picking beans, cracking eggs and growing cress are all fun ways for your child to get involved with their food and understand where it comes from. Before meals, ask your child to set the table and pick out the cutlery too.
Eat your veggies
Making fruit and vegetables a big part of your child’s lifestyle can be challenging, to say the least. Use a crinkle-cut knife to chop foods into tiny, fun pieces; make veggie ribbons with a peeler; or pretend that broccoli stalks are mini trees ready to be eaten by your dinosaur family.
This fearure was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!
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