We as parents have all been there. Our child that we successfully weaned on beautiful home cooked foods, and has been really great at eating, suddenly refuses anything and everything. To your despair, they now seem to have a very rigid set of foods that they will only eat. Mealtimes have become a battleground with no side looking like they are going to win the war. Between 18 months and 3 years a lot of children will start to go through this developmental stage. However for a lot of families this fussiness continues well into the school years.
Here are The Nourished Tribe's top 6 tips to deal with fussy eaters:
Establish a routine when it comes to meal and snack times and stick to it. Your kitchen is not open 24-7! It can be really easy for children to snack too much in between meals or fill up on juice or smoothies throughout the day so they are not hungry at mealtimes.
Get them involved. Get your children in the kitchen. Get them chopping, mixing, stirring and even laying the table. Most children love to cook and are much more willing to eat foods if they have helped prepare them.
Give them options. Have a few sharing bowls out on the dinner table and let your child choose what goes on their plate. You are still in control of what’s available for your child to eat but this empowers them to make the choice. Involve them in meal planning by looking at recipes and choosing what they might like.
Introduce problem foods one at a time with foods that they do like so you know that they will actually eat something on the plate. If you can’t get the food on the plate, have a taster bowl. A lot of children have an aversion to a lot of foods. An aversion is like an actual fear for a child. So if your child is really averse to eating a particular food they really do have a fear! One of the things you can try is to have a little taster bowl next to their plate. This way there is no “contamination” with the food that they are prepared to eat on their plate. All they have to do is to try it, there is no pressure to eat it. Trust us this really does work!
Be consistent with offering different foods. Eating isn’t a pass or a fail exercise. As parents we feel this stress, pressure and guilt at mealtimes. If they are not going to eat it today then tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to succeed. Even if they take one bite or have a lick of that food chalk it up as a success and build on this exposure. It takes time. It can take up 14 exposures before your child may eat it. Don’t give up!
Encourage family dining. This may not be possible every day but make weekends at least the time when you eat the same food together as a family. Their eating confidence is totally related to your eating confidence, your variety, attitude understanding and the ability to try something different.
It is really important to always remember that every child is unique and different. Not all children are going to be super eaters. Some will generally view food as fuel and others may be somewhere in the middle. There may also be some sensory issues or some other underlying physiological or biochemical reasons why your child may be fussy. If this is something that you are concerned about contact us at The Nourished Tribe where we would love to support you.