You spend hours planning and preparing good nutritious meals for your family only to have one of smallest members of the household flatly refuse to eat them. Tears, tantrums and general disarray surround the dinner table almost every night. Does this sound familiar? Yes? Welcome to the world of feeding fussy children.
I can honestly say that I experienced this at varying degrees with all three of my children. On too many occasions to count I have prepared a meal, confidently, lovingly and with a great deal of thought, only to have my child turn his nose up at it without even trying it! It’s frustrating to say the least.
I am however, happy to report that there are ways around your child’s somewhat selective palate.
Here are my top tips on feeding fussy children;
- Set a good example – Children are likely to follow your lead, so if you are eating the very same meal that you are serving up to them, they will be more likely to eat it. Show them just how much you enjoy eating that particular food.
- Create a family friendly environment – Turn off the TV and remove any other external distractions like Ipods, Ipads and so forth. Try sitting down at the dinner table as a family and talk about your day. Create a relaxed, calm environment and let your little one eat at his/her own pace. And lastly, try to remain calm if your child still refuses to eat. Losing your cool won’t solve the problem and will create additional stress for you and them. Simply remove the food and if they claim to be hungry later, perhaps you could re-serve it to them. Whatever you do, don’t give them a snack post-meal if they haven’t eaten satisfactorily. This will encourage further fussy eating.
- Get the kids involved – My boys love nothing more than getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. Make it fun for the kids, let them whisk eggs, wash lettuce leaves, and stir the mixture. Although this can make for a larger than life clean up at times, it also works wonders for getting them to try new foods. It almost creates a sense of independence and ownership, which translates into an open mind or better yet, an open mouth!
- Ground hog day – According to statistics, some children need to see a food 10-15 times before they accept it. So instead of scrapping a particular food because your child has refused to eat it on the first occasion, keep on trying. Serve it up to them several times a week – persistence is key.
- Stay calm and try not to give in – Sometimes your fussy little person isn’t actually being fussy about the food in front of them, but is more so testing the boundaries. Children will keep pushing the boundaries if they think you may give in. Stay strong from the onset. Eating good nutritious food is almost like teaching your child to be sun smart and wear a hat. You persist with replacing a hat every time your child removes it, so persist with feeding them good food. Eventually it become commonplace – vegies will form part of a complete meal, just as wearing a hat on a sunny day is regular routine!
- And if all else fails – Hide the goodness in food that you do know they will eat! This is a somewhat sneaky parenting tip from a mother of three, but when you really have tried every avenue and your child still refuses to eat, it becomes time for drastic measures. Try cooking vegetables and pureeing them so that they make a smooth paste, then add this paste to food that your child enjoys. It’s amazing how well beetroot and broccoli puree blend into chocolate muffins without being noticed! Mums the word (wink).