As a child, the excitement of exploring new surroundings is far more attractive than eating. According to data from the US, half of children under the age of two are classified as fussy or picky eaters. So moms, you are not alone in your struggles with toddlers who won’t eat what is set out for them!
If meals in your household are a constant struggle, here are a few practical tips for parents from us at Nutritional Solutions:
Make eating enticing
Fussy eaters tend to not like mixed dishes, like spaghetti bolognese, according to research.
- Make your child’s meals as visually appealing as possible. Use colourful child appropriate cutlery that makes the meal time look interesting and intriguing for your child.
- Experiment with colours using a variety of fruits and vegetables on the plate.
- Cut and arrange foods into interesting shapes which can tie in well with learning at school or play group too.
- Once your child is a little older, help them to feel more involved in the meal by getting them to prepare food with you or help setting the table.
- Focus on the positive and reinforce with a friendly tone of voice to create a warm and inviting eating environment.
- Offer one new food at a time and only in small amounts to prevent overwhelming your child.
- Serve a new food along with a favourite food. This will help improve the likelihood of your child accepting the new food.
- Children thrive on routine and schedule. Establish a signal for meal time such as a warm bath or hand washing, and allow time for play after meals. The anticipation may encourage your child to finish the plated food sooner.
- Force-feeding should be avoided. Remember that fussy eating may not just be about food but also about the strive for independence, forming part of a child’s normal social and physical development.
We know that a child’s acceptance of a new food is highly influenced by parents and siblings, particularly the mothers.
- Start influencing your child during pregnancy. Studies have suggested a child’s exposure to flavours through amniotic fluid and breast milk may influence food acceptance.
- If you do not want your child to eat a food, do not bring into the home or be seen eating it. Such observations may undermine healthy, nutritious food and create the impression that sweet treats should be valued over healthier foods.
- Set an example by allowing your child to see you trying new and interesting foods. Choose a fruit or vegetable at the supermarket and encourage your child to do the same. Having chosen the food will mean your child takes responsibility and ownership to eat it.