The Fussy Eater - how to help.
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If your child is a fussy eater, do not despair as it is very common for children to pick and choose what they will eat
Offer attractive looking food – children are more likely to try a food if they like the look of it. Try and make the food as attractive as possible, you can even make faces or shapes out of the food just to make it a bit more interesting.
Eat with the family/siblings – children will often follow by example. For instance some children won’t eat much at home but when they are with their peers at kindy or Day care they may happily tuck into foods they wouldn’t usually try at home. Children are also more likely to eat if the rest of the family are sitting down and eating a meal, they will learn how food is also a way of socialising and pleasure that should be enjoyed in good company.
Small Meals – It is better to offer your child smaller portions of food on a plate. If they eat everything you can always offer more.
Meals and snacks – Children are usually quite active and are continuing to grow, therefore they will need to meet all their energy requirements through food and drink. Offer your child breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a small mid-morning snack and a small mid afternoon snack. Try not to allow your child to ‘graze’ throughout the day otherwise they will never build up an appetite sufficient to enjoy or want a meal.
Routine – children like routine, so if possible try and offer them mealtimes at roughly the same time each day.
Independence – allow your child to feed himself from a young age. This way your child has control over the feeding process and will be more interested in what he puts in his mouth, rather than just sitting and being fed.
Appearance – try and make the food as attractive as possible. Luckily most fruit and vegetables are colourful and attractive and can be arranged in smiley faces or whatever suits your child.
Raw is good – If your child doesn’t like vegetables offer them raw, sometimes it’s just the texture they do not enjoy. Or blend up and mix with juice to make a nice smoothie. There are plenty of very healthy smoothie recipes with a combination of fruit and vegetables.
Continue to try your child with foods that he has previously refused, even if you just put a tiny bit on the edge of the plate.
Time – most children have a short attention span and won’t sit for as long as adults, nor will they have the same eating habits. However, once your child has finished his meal make it quite clear that it is the end of the meal for him. Take away the plate and no more food until the next meal or snack. This way your child will learn that he has to sit and finish eating until full and that there is no more food until the next meal.
Choice – don’t ask your child what they would like to eat, just offer healthy meals with each food group included.If your child does not eat a meal try not to get cross or coerce or bribe him, simply take the plate away. If your child eats all the food do not praise him or give him any treats as a reward. This behaviour may reinforce unhealthy eating habits and association with food later in life.
Praise – offer praise and encouragement when your child tries a new food.
New Food – try to get your child to try one bite of a new food, even if they don’t like the look at it. If they insist they won’t then try again in a few weeks.
Mix bitter tasting foods with sweet tasting vegetables, i.e. sweet potato and spinach
Hide the veg – If your child is a fussy eater there’s plenty of different ways to hide vegetables in soups or pasta sauces. Some children may not eat apples but it’s possible they may eat apple pie or apple crumble. The same goes for dairy, if your child doesn’t like meal, there’s always custard, yoghurt, cream, ice-cream. Most foods can be hidden or disguised in some form.
Juices and smoothies - are a blessing in disguise. Most children like a smoothie or juice. You can mix up or add to juices or smoothies. If you are pushed for time on occasions then grab a juice from the supermarket. There a some great tasting drinks that have added vegetable included. If you do have time experiment by adding carrot, beet root, even spinach to juices. Once they've been through a juicer your child will be none the wiser so long as they are getting a tasty drink.
If you child is a fussy eater just remember there are plenty of children who go through phases and eventually eat all types of food. Never force your child to eat if they don’t want to. Try to make mealtimes as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. Do not let your child’s eating habits become the focus of mealtimes. Praise them for eating food especially new food but no rewards.
If you are still concerned that your child is not getting sufficient nutrition in his diet then seek advice from a health care professional. It is also a good idea to keep a food diary for about a week to give your to your health care professional. They will be able to give you more help if and advice if they can see what your child is eating and when meal and snack times take place. Also include all drinks.
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Note: The guide is not meant to be fully comprehensive and is meant for information only. The author makes no guarantee, either expressed or implied, regarding the efficacy or use for any reason of the information contained within this article.