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10 tips for parents of fussy eaters

Baby eating food for article on fussy eating

Do you have a fussy eater in the family? You are not alone. Many parents may find themselves cooking different meals for different members of the family as you try to please everyone’s likes and dislikes.

This can be exhausting for the person doing the cooking and you may worry if your child is getting the nutritional intake they need to keep healthy. However, help is at hand and with some patience and consistency family mealtimes can still be a time to enjoy.

10 tips for coping with fussy eaters

When it comes to fussy eating, there is no one size fits all solution, and you will need to see what works best for your particular child’s needs, but here are ten tips for you to try.

1. Change meal frequency

Some children prefer to have smaller meals more often rather than three main ones, so you may want to try changing the size and frequency of their meals. Also avoid having crisps and empty-calorie-type snacks in the house which your child may fill up on before their meal.

2. Model healthy eating

Set a good example by eating a variety of healthy foods in front of your children and demonstrating how much you genuinely enjoy them. 

3. Make mealtimes fun.

Sit down together for meals and encourage your child to help set the table.  Try to avoid distractions such as the television or loud music and mobile phones and focus on engaging with each other instead.

4. Cook together

Allow your child to become involved with food preparation. Children are more likely to eat something that they have had a part in creating. Making pizzas or wraps where they can choose toppings and fillings are a great way to get them involved and creative.

 

5. Share where food comes from

Recent studies show that if children see pictures of food or take part in growing vegetables, they are more likely to try them and like them. The children see the vegetable in its raw form and understand how it is grown. 

6. Experiment with textures and tastes

If your child doesn’t like eating cooked vegetables, then try them raw. Cut vegetables into batons and serve with a healthy dip. Sometimes it’s the texture that they don’t like. However, some vegetables are bitter in taste, particularly leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage and young children may prefer sweeter foods.  

7. Add veg to stews and soups

Grate vegetables into stews and pasta dishes to up the nutritional value. Many children will tolerate vegetables in stews that they don’t eat on their own. However, try to avoid ‘hiding’ ingredients your child really doesn’t like as it can backfire if they detect the taste. They may become suspicious of being offered that again and it could stop them from eating something that was actually on their “good to eat” list. 

8. Don’t overload your child’s plate.

Offer smaller portions and arrange the food in a fun way. Use little bowls to provide a variety of items in a more enticing manner.  Cutting food into shapes can also be attractive for children such as cutting kiwis into star shapes. Some children do not like one food touching another so again smaller bowls or plates with separate compartments can be the answer here.

9. Don’t let fussy eating disrupt mealtimes

If a child refuses to eat, remain calm and carry on eating your food. This way the child will learn that they won’t get attention by refusing food. Once you are finished, simply remove their plate, and don’t offer them anything else until the next meal.

10. Check the milk intake.

After 18 months children can reduce their milk intake as long as they are still getting a good portion of calcium rich food in a meal. If the child is full from their milk feeds they are less likely to want to eat solid food.

Some experts believe that it can take up to 20 tries of a food before we should rule it out, so try to remain calm and patient if the child is refusing certain foods. Try not to bribe or pressure your child to eat, it can give the wrong message to your child and start a journey of unhealthy eating habits. 

Generally, children will eat when they are hungry and by being consistent and offering healthy food for your child, they will learn to try new foods and textures.

Always consult with your health visitor or doctor if you have concerns that your child is not getting enough nutritional benefit from their diet.

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