that, if implemented correctly, will help even the fussiest eater increase the variety of their diet - access, exposure and opportunity.
Access to nutritious foods, Exposure to healthy habits and the Opportunity to enjoy them!
Ok, it’s not like my kids jump for joy when they are given a bowl of steamed greens (actually sometimes they do) or that they would opt for some carrot sticks over a Fredo (let’s be honest, neither would I), but my children do eat and enjoy, without coercion or drama, a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains every day.
Of course, like all children, my kids have their whims and these fickle little creatures will turn their noses up at something they loved last week - but then again, something they turned their noses up at today is likely to be their favourite food next week!
Nobody said being a parent was easy and ensuring your children develop healthy eating habits is just one of many challenges - don’t give up! Even if your child has already developed a preference for less nutritious foods, it’s never too late to get them back on the right track. Don’t expect changes to happen overnight, but plan them to last a lifetime.
Create a positive family food environment
and without stress or tension – which means if a child doesn’t want to eat
something, stay calm.
Don't force feed
places the foods being served, namely vegetables, in a negative context which obviously is not going to result in a positive family food environment or the food being enjoyed; Secondly, forcing a child to eat something when they don’t want to, overrides their satiety cues which can cause them to over eat and can lead to weight problems. Even nutritious foods in amounts more than is needed can lead to weight gain.
Allow children to regulate their own appetite
also be very overwhelming and in itself cause resistance to eating. Serve a small plate first as they can always have seconds if they wish. This helps to reduce waste too.
Small regular meals and snacks
Similarly, a fussy eater may need to have a time limit put on their meals, around 20mins is generally suitable or 5mins after everyone else has finished, after which their plate is taken away and nothing more is available until the next meal. This of course is not to say a meal should be rushed.
Water should be readily available, particularly during hotter month.
Children sometime can confuse thirst with hunger, especially when they are in the habit of drinking milk when they are hungry.
Parent role modelling
Prepare one family meal
Preparing only one meal reinforces that there are no other food options available for that particular meal, which is a message that needs to be consistent. Parents are notorious for breaking this rule and children are savvy little creatures that learn pretty quickly if they refuse one thing they will be given something else.
Peer role modelling
Have a play date with children who are known to be good eaters and put these peer influence to work in your favour. Also be aware of negative influence on your child's food choices like advertising.
Offer rejected foods 10-15 times
Introducing a new food 10 – 15 times allows a child ample opportunity to become familiar with it and eventually, hopefully, give it a try. Some tactful comments and parent role modelling while the food is being introduced can be beneficial in encouraging a child to try a new food, “yum, this carrot is really crunchy,” “oh I love the colour of this broccoli.”
If a child decides they don't like the food once they have tried it a few times, that's ok, remember to stay calm and try reintroducing it
in a few months time.
Offer a variety of foods of different colours and textures
Introduce new foods slowly
Just remember to stay calm and be patient. Forming habits to last a lifetime takes time.
Offer foods before milk
Don’t use food as a reward
Hidden veggies are great, but always offer them on the plate too
Encourage children to be involved with choosing, preparing and growing food where possible
Fussy eating behaviours are often underpinned by struggles for independence so allow them to take control of what they eat by giving them simple choices (would you like an apple or banana), get them involved in planning the weekly dinner menu, and encourage them to be involved in packing their lunchbox. Keep the tasks age appropriate but don't under estimate their capabilities (My Kitchen Milestones).
Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs together has many benefits. Children are often more willing to try different fruits and vegetables if they have been involved in growing them. Choose things that grow quickly, like sprouts, so children don't loose interest in the project.
Growing foods as well as being involved with preparing and cooking foods also helps children become familiar with them before they are expected to eat them. Increasing familiarity with different foods goes a long way to increase acceptance.
Remember to be consistent, persistent and patient.
Get creative in the kitchen and try as many different recipes as you can (and as many ways to hide veggies as you can). Some of my favourite snacks for kids includes vegetables sticks and dip, soft vegetables like corn or avocado for younger children, savoury muffins, fresh fruit or a healthy fruit option like bliss balls, homemade chicken nuggets, and mini pizzas.
I would love to hear your fussy eater stories and what has or hasn't worked for you. Please feel free to share the healthy recipes that your kids love too.
PS. Sorry there is no pics, they wouldn't upload