Fussy eating is the refusal of certain food types such as vegetables, or the decision to eat specific foods such as those with a certain texture. With kids there can be no rhyme or reason to why or when this happens. It’s a common phase that most 2-5 year old go through lasting a few days or as long as a few years. Rest reassured that most kids will be a fussy eater at some stage of childhood.
Having a child who is a fussy eater can be both frustration and worrying. The main concerns being that your child is either eating enough or getting the right nutrients. The best way to know your child is getting enough to eat is by looking for signs that they
- are gaining weight
- have plenty of energy
- are growing
- are not ill
If you have any concerns about your child’s health with regards to nutrition, it best to contact your GP or health visitor to discuss your concerns.
Sometimes fussiness can be confused with the fact that the child just isn’t hungry for the following reasons:
- Full from snacking
- Too soon between meals
If your child is currently going through a fussy phase you don’t need to suffer. These are our top tips to helping you deal with picky eaters, without going insane.
10 Tips for Fussy Eaters
It’s best to avoid stressing over the situation as this can lead to problems with eating which can be more difficult to resolve. Remember this is normal behaviour and will pass with time. Take a deep breath and keep calm at all times in front of your child.
2. You’re the chef
Offer a variety of foods rather than giving into the demands for the same meals. At first they may protest, but will probably enjoy at least one of two of those meals. They may even find new favourites to obsess over. Most kids will eat if they are hungry. If they continue to refuse to eat and begin to show signs of ill health, it’s best to speak to a health professional.
3. Make it interesting
You’ve seen those photos on Pinterest with meals created into kid friendly shapes. Kids enjoy this kind of thing because it’s visually appealing to them. It might encourage your kid to touch and play with the food so mealtimes become more enjoyable.
4. Make a trade off
If your kid loves a certain food and requests it over and over, make a trade off. The deal is to include it in every meal, as long as you get to add more foods. For example if your kid loves cheese try making meals such as vegetable pizza or cauliflower cheese, and be generous with the cheese!
5. Eat together
Children learn from those around them. If they don’t see parents or siblings eating certain foods such a veggies, they don’t have a role model to show them they are tasty and enjoyable. Eating together at family mealtimes teaches them a lot of social skills which prepares them for life.
6. Get them involved
If a kid makes the food themselves they are much more likely to eat it. Letting your kid into the kitchen can show them just how much work goes into making food and lets them be creative. They may realise they like certain foods but presented in a different way.
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7. Understand them
We bet you have foods which are your favourites and those you find disgusting. Ask yourself why you hate or love these foods. Is it the flavour, the texture, the smell? Children experience food just like you do and will develop their own likes and dislikes throughout life.
8. Get away from the table
If you seem to experience the same situation around the dining table every day, your child can begin to associate that area with negativity. Mix it up by letting your kid have a pretend picnic with a blanket on the floor, or play pretend restaurants. Using the dining table for other fun activities can reduce the likelihood it’s seen a place to dread.
Even if your child eats only a small portion, it’s better the praise them for what they have eaten than to criticise for what they have not. On the other hand don’t allow them to eat a small amount and then treat them with food rewards such as sweets.
10. Eat with other kids
If you know other kids who are good eaters, invite them round for dinner. You’ll find that kids tend to want to do what their friends are doing and follow their example.