What to do if your Child is a Fussy Eater?

According to the latest research from the University of Guelph in Ontario, nearly half of parents identify their pre-schoolers as picky eaters. And if you're reading this, there's a good chance you're one of them. Welcome to the club!
 
While family meal times should be seen as a social occasion, it can be fraught with battles for parents and child alike. From fussy eating to picky eating, from being too distracted by the TV, to demanding to eat on the ‘big table’ - the nuisances and challenges vary from parent to parent.

What do to if your child is a fussy eater?

If you live with a fussy eater, here's some steps that might help:
  • Involve kids in preparing meals
If it’s about getting kids more interested in food, then helping to prep for dinner is a great place to start. It can also help your child feel more in control, for instance if you ask them which pasta they’d like to eat, and invite them to pour it into the saucepan (not on the hob).
 
Other times, you might want to get your pre-schooler to chop up some of the ingredients (under supervision), or use a cookie cutter to make some shapes. Pizzas, dough balls, cookies and cakes are all fun interactive foods to cook together. Allow them to serve their own food on their favourite children’s plate, under your watchful eye, to make them more inclined to want to try it.
 
  • Make mealtimes fun
We forget that the dinner table can be a daunting place for children and making it a fun time can create positive associations with it. On her website, Dr Lara Markham, a clinical psychologist specialising in child development, said: "A table is somewhat alien to a toddler. It’s high up, and he's told to sit still, which is against his nature.... Let your little one play with spoons, trains, a teddy bear- whatever keeps him happy and eating so he gets used to sitting still at the table and parents can enjoy a bit of conversation.”
 
Munchy Play children’s plates were created to invite children to the dinner table and keep them entertained with dining at the focus.
 
  • Offer praise
Rewarding good behaviour is important for the times (no matter how rare they are) when your child tries a new food or sits down as asked. While it can be hugely frustrating to see one of your meals cast aside, try not to let your frustrations show.
  • Healthy Alternatives
So, your kid likes pizza, burgers and chips. Who doesn’t!

This doesn’t however mean this has to be junk. A homemade pizza using a pitta bread base with fresh vegetables is a great meal for a toddler, baked sweet-potato chips are higher in vitamins than regular potatoes and make a delicious alternative to fries. Instead of a greasy burger, why not make a homemade patty using finely chopped vegetables like carrots, mushrooms and peppers.
 
  • Mealtimes as a family
Research by the American journal Pediatrics suggests that families that sit down for meals together have less eating problems in children, with those children more 24% more likely to eat healthier foods too.
 
While this can be particularly challenging, with the varying times that children eat among other factors, it could be helpful trying to have a family meal together at least once during a weekend, to see if this improves your child’s mealtime behaviour.
 
  • Repeat Exposure
Studies reveal that repeat exposure to foods can, given time, make children more likely to eat them. The lesson here is not to give up. If there’s a food they don’t like now, they might like it in the future, so don’t write it off entirely.

So there you have it, some handy tips for getting you through those challenging early years.

 

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