Dealing With "Fussy Eaters"
Lots of you found my tips last week useful so I thought I would do something on dealing with fussy eating.
I don't claim to have had perfect mealtimes with perfect eaters with my four children. I know I made a few mistakes along the way but hopefully I can inspire you to make some changes if you need to. What I do see now they are teenagers is that they really enjoy a wide range of foods and whilst things like breaded chicken, pasta and meatballs or lasagne might be their absolute favourites (which we have pretty rarely), they will happily eat veggie chili, butternut squash risotto, thai chicken curry or salmon and noodles. SO don't feel despondent as the work you put in does ultimately pay off.
So first and foremost DON'T label your child as a 'fussy' or 'picky' eater. Kids live up to the labels we give them. The label is reinforcing so they become MORE fussy or picky.
Here are some things that can help:
- Make a point to talk about the foods they DO eat. Sometimes you take for granted what your child will eat as it feels like there is so much they refuse to eat. This helps them have a perception of themselves as someone who is perfectly capable of eating.
- Every time you want to introduce a new ingredient or type of food, introduce it a few days before and show it to your child - with no expectation that they will be very interested or want to try it but they can feel it, smell it or help to cut it up.
- Cut up the new food - for example red pepper, apple, cheddar cheese in very small pieces and put them on a plate at the table. You can make a rule that they have to try the new food or just leave it on the table, try some yourself, don't make a big fuss about it and see if they try some.
- Make sure your child is hungry at mealtimes. A hungry child will be MUCH more likely to try new foods or eat food he isn't crazy about, if they are hungry enough.
- Don't be tempted to serve the same meal almost every day. This encourages kids to have a very limited palate and they will be reluctant to be adventurous.
- Even if your child pushes the food away and refuses to eat it, don't offer loads of alternatives. No child will starve. They could have something very simple like a piece of fruit or piece of bread instead but don't dance around like a short-order chef offering alternatives. Parents often really struggle with this one but trust me, it does work if you stick to your guns.
- Let your child get involved with cooking or preparing the meal. This is a great way of de-mystifiying what ingredients are in the meal and they often get much more curious and want to try things they have helped to make.
- Provide a range of foods and expect that some (usually the plainer or more 'child-friendly' foods) will be more popular but that doesn't mean to say you shy away from serving things that are different or less well-received.
- Be very careful not to give your child too many snacks throughout the day. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are fine but give things like cut up fruit or vegetables, rice-cakes with some nut butter, oatcakes or breadsticks. These things won't fill them up too much and therefore they will be hungrier at the mealtime.
- Keep your portions quite small. A huge plate with tons of food on it is very off-putting to a child. They can always come back for more if they finish the first plateful but don't require that they finish everything on the plate. This puts a lot of pressure on children and doesn't respect their appetite.
- Don't have the TV or a screen in front of your child at mealtimes. Try to make the mealtime relaxed and enjoyable and have topics of conversation like 'what is your favourite animal/colour/game.'
- Do jump over to mealtimes where I have some tried and tested recipes and some more on managing mealtimes Making mealtimes work
I hope you find that helpful. Do let me know. I reply personally to all emails I get. firstname.lastname@example.org