Around the world food is a way of bringing people together; a joyous, festive occasion of the senses yet sometimes meal times can be a rather stressful experience all because of fussy eaters.
Truth is, it is normal for children to be fussy eaters.
For some children it is a way of exploring and expressing their independence. It is not uncommon for children to change what they like and dislike from one day to another. To eat more one day and less the next is also all part of their development process.
According to Kate diParma, co-author of book ‘More Peas Please, Solutions For Feeding Fussy Eaters’ there doesn’t appear to be any clinical evidence as to why fussy eaters are fussy, other than many children’s’ taste buds are corrupted by salt and sugar early on, mixed messages for parents as to what to do, missing cues as to when to introduce and change textures of solids, busy lifestyles leading to disrupted routines and many people having an input into a child’s eating.
The good news is that fussy eating habits won’t last. As the child gets older they will become less fussy.
But what steps can you as a parent take now to support your child through this phase and encourage your child’s willingness to try new foods?
- Make meal times a happy, social occasion. Sit down together as a family and all enjoy the same meal.
- Have realistic expectations. Introduce only one new food item at a time; serve smaller portions not to overwhelm. Remember you will need to offer new foods several times before they become familiar and are accepted.
- If your child is fussing about food, ignore it as much as you can. Giving attention to fussing only encourages the behavior more and the child will learn that the fussing behavior gets them the attention.
- Get children involved in the kitchen. Involve them in planning and preparing meals. Many children love cooking. Or perhaps they can help by setting the table for everyone, washing the vegetables etc.
- Make healthy food fun or make healthy junk food.
- Turn the TV off, put phones and other electronic devices away and just talk to each other at meal times. Make it family time.
Remember stay calm and if you have left over food, simply remove from table, perhaps offer it again for another meal but don’t let your children snack an hour later.