Solutions for fussy eating

Don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to fussy eating! Understand that there will be times when your child is simply not hungry and that healthy snacks are as essential for young children as meals. Add variety to your child’s diet and encourage them to eat home-cooked foods. Check out these solutions to help your fusser eater on their way.
Don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to fussy eating!

Understand that there will be times when your child is simply not hungry and that healthy snacks are as essential for young children as meals.

Add variety to your child’s diet and encourage them to eat home-cooked foods.

Check out these easy solutions from Yum Yum Kids to help your fusser eater.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

  • It may be challenging but make a real effort to make meal times a stress-free social occasion.
  • Try not to worry about your child not finishing their meal, about knocked-over drinks or a mess on the floor.
  • Give positive feedback on the habits you want continued, rather than focusing on the negatives.
  • Serve your child the same meal the family is eating and if they choose not to eat it, try not to lose your cool, simply remove the uneaten food and try again at the next meal time.

2. Make food fun

  • Food and the experience of food should be enjoyed, even if it's not all eaten.
  • Discovering and enjoying food for a toddler or young child means touching, feeling, tasting and playing with food.
  • This can be messy, but if you expect it and prepare for the spills the experience of food can be genuinely fun for your child- and you!
  • For all children (but particularly fussy eaters), broaden the experience of food by not only focusing on the eating but all the other things food has to offer.
  • Think about food play, food preparation, growing food, cooking, the social aspects of food, food stories, food colours, textures and the learning potential around food.
  • By doing this your child will develop an appreciation for food and a more lifestyle orientated attitude towards it.

3. Recognise your child's natural appetite

  • There will be days where your child is hungry and other days when they will hardly touch a thing.
  • So feed them when they’re hungry and let them eat less when they’re not interested. This way you will encourage your child’s natural appetite. Don’t worry they won’t starve!
  • The amount of food children need and their appetite depends on the speed at which they grow.
  • Babies grow rapidly! A 6 month old baby will gain one kilogram every eight weeks. But toddlers grow slowly in comparison and may take even six months to gain one kilogram.
  • Very simply; toddlers and small children don’t eat as much as babies because they don’t need as much, despite the fact that they may be very active throughout the day.
  • Understand that there will be times when your child is simply not hungry. Respect this and avoid forcing or coercing them to eat.
  • Acknowledge that if your child is sick, has a sore throat or is teething, this will have an effect on their appetite.

4. Offer nutritious snacks

  • Understandably, parents become worried if their child’s appetite is small and will try to ensure adequate energy intake by offering snacks throughout the day. We have all definitely been guilty of this.
  • Snacks are as essential for young children as meals. Try to offer nutritious snacks, but as all parents know, taste and perception will ultimately influence whether it is eaten or not, so be creative.
  • Offering sugary or salty snacks throughout the day in an attempt to ensure your child is getting something is likely to back fire.
  • Remember, snacks high in fat, sugar, salt or additives may ruin your child’s appetite (particularly if they are close to mealtimes) and toddlers and children become less inclined to eat family food when they know they will get tempting snacks as an alternative.

5. Add variety to your child’s diet

  • If your child will only eat a few foods, try to increase the range of things they will eat.
  • Persevere and try to introduce your fussy eater to a range of tastes, textures and colours.
  • Continue to offer their favourites, but include something new at each mealtime and praise the child for trying.
  • If they won’t taste it this time, offer it again later. It may take 6-10 times before your child tastes and eventually eats it (hopefully).
  • Establish the "one bite" rule for new foods. Let children know it is okay to not like something, but that it is important to try it before making up their minds.
  • Praise a child who takes that bite! Remember, you need to follow the one bite rule yourself. Be a positive model. Be honest if you don't like something and explain your reasons.
  • Visit the local farmers markets. Make it a weekend outing with your child. Farmers markets are a brilliant place to experience a variety of foods. Ask questions, learn what is in season, touch, taste and enjoy food.

6. Encourage your child to eat home-cooked foods 

  • Convenience and processed foods that are high in additives, salt, sugar and/or fat are not healthy.
  • Homemade food can be exciting and the great thing about home cooking is you know exactly what’s in it!
  • By limiting the amount of additives, sugar and salt you add to your child’s food, you will help them learn to appreciate natural tastes.

7. Minimise distractions & make food & eating a priority

  • Or should we say the wrong sort of distractions. Basically make time for food and socialising as a family around food. Little children are more likely to concentrate on eating if you prioritise mealtimes.
  • Turn off the TV, sit down together and make the time for meals and eating.
  • Fussy eaters are more likely to join in if mealtimes are relaxed and fun, where your child sees you enjoying food and enjoying time together.
  • Children can be involved in all aspects of the process from shopping together, growing stuff for the meal, setting the table, serving, eating and cleaning up.
  • Yes it definitely takes time and is not always possible in today’s hectic lifestyle, BUT even if you can do for one meal a day it will pay dividends in the long run and will teach children (and especially fussy eaters) to have a more positive appreciation of food.

8. The ‘challenge’ of independence

  • Try to support your child’s move to independence rather than fighting it.
  • Offering choices is a really good way to keep the experience positive, empower them to make decisions and ultimately increase the likelihood your child will eat good food.
  • Encourage your child to do it themselves, even if it means using fingers and making a mess. This could mean simple meals that children can create themselves such as pizzas, wraps or tacos. 
  • This will give your child a sense of involvement and achievement and a fussy eater can make it just the way they like it.
  • Provide tools especially for them to do the job. Baking sets, plates and utensils designed just for children. This supports your child’s independence and allows them to feel involved throughout the process.
  • Respecting your child’s preferences (within reason obviously).
  • By relinquishing and letting your child win the occasional small battle you will ultimately win the war (that is, your fussy eater will try new foods and eat healthy foods).
  • This may be something simple like removing the crusts from sandwiches or only buttering one side of the bread, or even avoiding foods touching each other.
  • For some children an ‘undesirable’ food touching a ‘desirable’ food contaminates everything.
  • By acknowledging your child’s preferences you can make them feel more in control and increase the likelihood of your child eating the meal. It will also go a long way to take the stress and conflict out of mealtimes.

9. Food presentation

  • Presentation can make all the difference between whether or not a child will eat food, particularly for those not so exciting foods.
  • Serving foods in funky bright-coloured dishes of different shapes and sizes can encourage consumption as it makes eating fun. Little minds love to be creative and stimulated.
  • Use a funky drink bottle to encourage the drinking of water and a gorgeous lunch box to make home packed healthy lunches fun.

10. Be prepared - it may take time!

  • Fussy eaters are often slow eaters who dawdle over their plate. It is pointless trying to hurry them.
  • Offer meals at regular times in a relaxed and happy atmosphere.
  • If a child has become used to picky eating, it may take some time to reverse things. Try to be calm, patient, and consistent.
  • If your child rejects the food, calmly clear it away and resist the urge to offer alternatives. Just try again another day.
  • Remember food often needs to be familiar before it is tried.
  • Acknowledge good behaviours and ignore the bad.
  • The best reinforcement is your relationship with food. Young, children are more likely to want to eat the food their parents eat. As they get older, they tend to want the foods that their friends eat.

11. Rewards & incentives

  • Using ‘treat’ foods like sweets and biscuits as bribes or rewards for good behaviour is very common however it may not be an effective way of promoting healthy eating in the long term.
  • An alternative is the use of the 'Fun To Eat Well' reward chart which will teach your child about nutrition and the place for treat foods in the overall diet.
  • Also consider non food rewards for good eating, like going to the beach or to your child’s favourite toy shop.

12. Using supplements

  • Vitamin supplements can help if a child is really missing out on vital nutrients.
  • But they’re not a substitute for a balanced diet, so continue to strive towards healthy eating habits and seek professional advice if you are considering supplementing your child’s diet.

13. Getting help

  • If your child’s fussy eating doesn’t improve and is extreme it may be a good idea to get some advice from a GP or health professional.
  • They will be able to check a child’s weight and general health, offer nutritional advice and if necessary refer on to more expert help.

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Source: This article has been kindly written for us by Yum Yum Kids.
Image source: dairyfreechick.

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