Feeding Kids

Top 3 tips for fussy eaters

If you are concerned about fussy eaters in your household, you’re not alone. Estimates show that up to one in two children will go through a fussy eating period. It is quite common for young children to exert their independence and refuse certain foods.

In addition, toddlers frequently change what their favourite food is. One week it’s cheese toasted sandwiches, then the next they hate cheese, but demand strawberry jam, no crusts. Sound familiar?

Avoid pressuring fussy eaters

When kids protest, or flat out refuse to eat the creative hidden vegetable dish you created, it can be disheartening. I’ve been there, I get it.

Frustrations can arise after a long day, it can be tempting to offer a bribe. Promising chocolate as payment for trying cabbage can actually push the child further away from the desired effect – accepting more foods.

When introducing a new food to a child, the key factor is repeated exposure. It could take anywhere from 15 to 30 times before a child even samples the food, so don’t give up.

Bowl of bright green steamed broccoli
Bowl of bright green steamed broccoli

Three tips for dealing with fussy eating

  1. Persistence. Continue to place a small amount of the food on the child’s plate, for example one broccoli floret, so as not to overwhelm. Minimising fuss goes a long way. If the child refuses the item, gently remind him/her that it will stay on the plate until they finish the rest of the meal.
  2. Embrace mess. This can be frustrating if you are a (recovering) perfectionist like me. However, sensory experiences with food for children will go a long way towards food acceptance. Kids need to be able to discover all of the characteristics of food in order to trust it, what better way to achieve this than by letting them immerse themselves in some sensory play with food.
  3. Consider texture. If it is a vegetable that you are introducing, try cooking it a different way, some children prefer different textures, much like adults. You could roast, steam, boil or bake.

Remember that it is developmentally normal and healthy for your child to put up resistance at meal times; you are not alone in this battle. Hopefully these tips prove useful.

Fussy eating red flags

All kids develop eating skills over time. However, if you are concerned about your child’s eating, do not delay in seeking professional advice. Here are some things to look out for and might indicate something worth investigating:

  • Stunted or delayed growth along centiles
  • Eats fewer than 25 foods
  • Refusing an entire food group e.g. vegetables
  • Only eating pureed foods (after age 1)

Early support and intervention can be invaluable in assisting. If you are unsure, start with your General Practitioner (GP) or Paediatrician.

I am available for Paediatric Nutrition consultations at Tyack Health.

I’d love to hear if you have any of your own tips? What have you found most effective?

Thanks for stopping by, Madeleine.

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