Do you have a fussy eater in your household? If so, you'll know the huge amounts of stress that can be caused by seemingly endless arguments at mealtimes, not to mention the wasted time and effort preparing meals which end up in the bin, or worse, on the floor. Although frustrating, most children do eventually grow out of being extremely fussiness and in the meantime there are a few ways you can encourage them to broaden their food choices.
If you have a fussy eater on your hands (most families seem to have at least one!), here are a few tricks you can try to help your child expand their dietary repertoire and make mealtimes less of a battleground.
Fussy Food Fix #1: Eat As A Family and Create A Relaxed Environment
Getting angry with your child may turn mealtimes into a stressful occasion which can make the problem worse. Try to turn off the television, praise your child for good manners and when they try new food and keep conversation light. Seeing other family members eating and enjoying a range of different foods may help encourage your child to be more adventurous.
Fussy Food Fix #2: Encourage Your Child To TRY Everything On Their Plate
Expecting a clean plate at each meal is probably unrealistic. Young children, especially toddlers are often grazers and forcing them to finish everything could set them up for a negative attitude towards food in later years. You can encourage your child to try everything in front of them (if they don't like it they don't have to finish it). Praise them for taking a bite or even a lick of an unfamiliar food. One day they may surprise themselves by liking something new.
Fussy Food Fix #3: Limit Snacks and Grazing Between Mealtimes
If your child isn't eating their meals maybe they aren't hungry. Filling up on less nutritious snacks before mealtimes can make it even harder to get your child to try healthy food. Likewise, giving your child a sandwich or some chips after they haven't eaten their meal tells them that if they refuse healthy food they will get something else later.
Fussy Food Fix #4: Don't Focus On The Fussiness
Giving your child a lot of attention for their fussy eating habits could turn food refusal into a way to get attention rather than being about the food itself. Although you want to encourage your child to eat new food, turning it into a performance may have the opposite effect. A good way to approach the situation is to ask your child to try something, if they don't, say “ok, we'll try again another time,” and drop the subject.
Fussy Food Fix #5: Provide Your Child With Choices
Being given a choice can provide your child with some measure of control over the process. Make sure you give them the choice between two healthy foods (anyone who is asked to choose between chocolate and broccoli is probably not going to pick the broccoli). Making their own choices can encourage independence in children and toddlers and they may be more inclined to eat something they have chosen than something that has been thrust on them.
Fussy Food Fix #6: Don't Give Up
After endless failed attempts to get your child to try new food it can be tempting to give up and just offer them plain pasta at every meal. Children often need to be exposed to new foods multiple times before they become familiar enough to try them. Keep offering a small amount of new food alongside more familiar foods ” one day your child may just surprise you!