Growing up my mum would always insist that we try new foods, even if it was just a bite. Which I hated but It made me into somewhat an adventurous eater, in that I continue to try new foods, especially the ones I didn’t like when I as little - still not a fan of tomatoes or any type of bean – but I digress.
The world has plenty of picky eaters. I’m always shocked when adults will say things like, “Ugh, I hate seafood.” If I ask what they don’t like about it the reply is more often than not, “I’ve never tried it, it just seems gross.” I have to figure this might’ve been a kid who had his crusts cut from his sandwiches and had a pizza waiting in the wings if he ‘didn’t like’ what was on the menu for dinner that night... Not that I know anyone like that.
top 6 tips for coping with a fussy eater
When my daughter was born I swore I wouldn’t do a lot of things, one of them being to never make a separate meal for my kids – they would have whatever we were having and while I wasn’t about to feed my 10 month old our spicy chilli but I vowed to never to cut off their crusts and things like that. Our kids would eat whatever I had served just as my mum had expected of me and my brothers because I refused to have ‘high-maintenance’ kids. Granted my step-son, at age five, has a ritual of saying “Eww, I hate it!” with most foods, so sticking to our guns is becoming more difficult so here’s our advice if your child is a fussy eater:
Make a favourite once a week – My stepson could eat nuggets and chips every single night. We made him a deal that it would be on the menu once a week so despite whatever we had the rest of the week he knows that one night he will love a meal. The compromise made him more willing to eat the veggies on the side!
Play with preparation - As above if we changed up his favourite menu but kept every aspect of it he was open to eating it – like the chicken nuggets we would swap for actual chicken breast and explained that it’s the same just without crumbs on, and likewise the chips we swap them for sweet potato or mash before you know it your fussy eater is having chicken, mash and veg! (still dipped in ketchup of course!)
Take baby steps – Introducing all the foods you’d like your child to enjoy at one meal will be overwhelming. Like in my previous two points we like to add a single ingredient that we wish he would eat and team it with other things we know he already enjoys.
Be a role model – Model the behaviour you would like to see in your child. If you expect your kids to eat a plate of veggies, you should also serve yourself veggies! If you are stressed, your child will feel it, and the meal may turn into a stressful experience for everyone which brings me onto my next point.
Don’t become frustrated – This is probably the most difficult but definitely the most important point. Every time you make a negative association with a particular food they’re less likely to try it next time. Be patient and remember that though it’s frustrating, your child picky eater is just that – a child.
Don’t Force it - So you tried the 5 other steps and there it is, the signature scrunched face at the chicken and veg casserole. It happens, and it will happen again, but we promise it will happen less and less. Keep on trying out different ways of preparing it and just don’t make a big deal about it they do finally eat what’s on their plate.
why some children are fussy eaters
I personally don’t like to use the term fussy eater. Being called it a lot when I was little and even in my adult life – it has always bugged me! I think it’s a mixture of being your own person with different likes and dislikes and wanting to be in control. My daughter, for instance, is only 10 months old and will eat whatever I put in front of her although the melon clearly didn’t go down that well to start with, she eventually ate the entire thing! (a finger not a whole melon!) Whereas my stepson is at an age where doing as your told is the worst thing ever. Yet when we give him choices rather than demands he will often always eat every bite! But kids will be kids and nobody knows why, but sometimes they just won’t have any of it! Here are some of the reasons our son doesn’t want to eat his dinner:
• Spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce – “it’s too spicy” • Cottage pie – “Grandad looked at it!” • Chicken casserole – “I only like this at nanny’s” • Roast dinner – “I already had dinner at school” • Tomato soup – “I don’t want it in a bowl!”
If you're really worried about your child’s eating habits, keep a diary of all the food and drink they have over a week. Check that they’ve had something from each of the four main food groups.
If you know your toddler has eaten foods from each group, you probably don’t need to worry. But if you’re still concerned, take notes to your GP or health visitor, they’ll check your toddler’s weight and height, and are likely to reassure you that there's no problem. If there are any issues, they will give you plenty of support to help you get back on track.