Is your kid a picky eater? Do your children fight eating the dinner you make every night? Here are 15 tips for parents who have fussy eaters.
Every parent feels that their child is the worst eater in the world. My name is Priya, and I’m here with some tips for parents of fussy eaters.
According to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children’s website, a third of the children around the age of two are fussy eaters.
A child’s food intake is one of the biggest causes of stress in parents. From my experiences, I would like to share 15 tips for parents of fussy eaters, with the view of reducing their stress.
And if your kids like making their own food, then they’ll love these Kid-Friendly Charcuterie Board Ideas!
15 Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
You should also give these sheet pan dinners for kids a try!
1. The mood of the child
The first tip is that parents should try to recognise the mood of their child.
Every child is moody. Sometimes they are in the mood to eat a particular fruit or vegetable and the next day they won’t feel like it. Parents, you might find it hard to adjust to this but children are very moody. So don’t worry if they like some foods one day and reject them the next day.
But that doesn’t mean you never offer them the fruit/vegetable/dish they rejected on the day. Offer it to them some other day and another day. By offering it repeatedly, they will be more accepting of eating that particular dish/vegetable.
2. Family meals together
From my own experiences, I have noticed that whenever we have family meals together, my children are less fussy about their food. Children learn to eat different dishes by observing their parents. Children will never do what parents teach them. They will always do what the parents are doing.
So during meals, if the children see their parents and siblings eating their meal, they will do the same. Parents are the most powerful role models for their children.
Having family meals is especially important for very young children as they get distracted very easily.
So if you are trying to make your toddler eat (on their own) while you are pacing the room up and down, they will be more focused on what you are doing rather than focus on their food.
Being a parent myself, I know that it is not always possible to have all the meals together as a family. But try and do as many as you can or at least one a day.
Family meals also provide the perfect opportunity for the family to bond. Family meals also make children more sociable.
3. One meal for the whole family
One of the most important tips for parents of fussy eaters is that they should cook only one meal for the whole family. Children should eat the same food as adults minus the salt, sugar or spice.
By doing this, parents will also be encouraged to have a healthy diet. As per my earlier tip, when children watch their parents eating their meal, they will be encouraged to do the same.
Initially, the number of dishes for family meals might be limited to what the child likes the most but slowly parents will be able to introduce other dishes as the child will get accustomed to eating what the parent is eating.
4. Make mealtimes interesting
Mealtimes should be treated as a family time where all the members of the family can spend time together in a fun way. If this can happen, the child will automatically start associating food with fun.
If the child has always got pleasant experiences in their mind about meals they will always be eagerly waiting for mealtimes.
5. Screen-free meals
As per my post on 5 Ways to To Reduce Screen Time in Kids, I have advised that parents should keep all devices away from themselves as well as their children during meal times.
Screens distract attention away from food for both adults and children. As per my post, if devices are not used during mealtimes, children and adults will focus on the food. This also helps with reducing screen time in children.
6. Minimising snacks in-between meals
Children should be discouraged from snacking in-between meals. If it cannot be avoided, in-between meals snacks should be kept to a minimum.
If children eat just before mealtimes they won’t be hungry enough to finish their meal and if they do not eat their meals properly, they might get hungry much before the next meal!
So to avoid the hassle of children getting hungry at odd times, keep snacks to a bare minimum.
7. Implementing family rules
This is one of the best tips I can suggest for parents of fussy eaters which is setting family rules.
If family rules are set correctly, children will know what is expected of them. They would be aware that they are supposed to finish their vegetables. They would know that screens or not allowed on the dining table.
Parents, whatever you are struggling to make your child listen about, jot it down on the family rules checklist. On the other hand, don’t use food as a way to discipline your child. Meaning do not use food as a consequence of misbehaviour. For example: “you misbehaved today so you will have to eat an extra portion of vegetables”.
For children, food should always be associated with pleasant things rather than unpleasant.
8. Trust your child
This is the hardest of all the tips for parents of fussy eaters to implement.
Parents have to trust their child when the child says they are full up. Some parents insist on their child finishing everything even though the child is full. To avoid food wastages, always offer small portions of food to the child. They can always have seconds or thirds if they are still hungry!
If parents serve huge portions, children will find it daunting to finish everything and they may tend to overeat which is not good for health either.
9. Food children dislike
Just like adults, children are not going to like all dishes/fruits/ vegetables. A parent should encourage children to ‘try’ new dishes by offering them very small portions. Maybe a spoonful or a bite. Praise them every time they ‘try’ a new dish. As per my previous tip, offering the (rejected) foods, again and again, will make children start developing a taste for them.
For example, my daughter only liked Indian food and not other cuisines when she was very young but I kept offering her different cuisines and now she eats a lot of cuisines. This is because she started developing tastes for other cuisines. So keep persisting, do not give up!
You might want to have your kids try these 18 Easiest Meals for Picky Kids.
10. Forcing children is not the way
In case your child doesn’t like a dish when they try it, don’t force them to have more. Take a break of few days or few weeks. Then make them try it again. If they still don’t like it don’t force them to eat more. Praise them every time they “try” the food.
As mentioned earlier, always keep a positive association with food.
Consistency is a very important element of making parenting easier, as explained in my post Is Parenting Hard? How To Make Parenting Easier.
Even meals should be offered consistently during the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner should be offered at roughly the same time every day.
If meals are roughly offered at the same time, children will know when they can expect the next meal and their body clock will get accustomed to eating the food at the same time every day.
12. Some are slow
My son is a very slow eater. At his worst, he used to take one and a half hours to finish each meal! He has improved a lot due to having family meals together but sometimes he is still slow.
If a child eats slowly parents just have to be patient and if possible encourage the child to eat a little faster. If a child eats slowly, it is just their way of eating and it doesn’t mean that they are fussy eaters.
Keep extra time for meals, if required.
13. Stay calm
Every day is not the same. Some days are good and some days are bad. At times, if your child has eaten less don’t worry too much as long as they are getting enough nutrition and are growing nicely.
If we think about it, we adults don’t eat the same quantity of food every day either!
14. Start early
Good eating habits should be inculcated in children from a very young age. Preferably from the time, you start giving them solid foods (6 months of age).
As they grow older it will become harder and harder to change their eating habits. If a good foundation is laid with regards to their eating habits, they are less likely to be fussy eaters.
15. Giving in
Every child will not like every dish/fruit/vegetable. Sometimes even rules might not work. The child might still refuse to eat. Instead of turning the dining table into a battlefield, give in a little.
For example, you have cooked mixed vegetable curry and your child doesn’t want to eat the sweetcorn but is ready to eat the other vegetables then let them have their way.
Let them have their way sometimes if what they are asking for is reasonable… This will buy you a lot of peace, the child will be happy that they got their way and will finish the other vegetables quickly.
These are my top 15 tips for parents of fussy eaters. Which one are you going to try first? Have you got any tip that you would like to share with me? Please let me know via the comment box below.
About the Author of Tips for Fussy Eaters
Priya is the writer and owner of the blog, How To Be a Positive Parent. When she is not sharing her parenting and mumpreneur tips on her blog, she is a freelance writer for hire. She is a regular mum who loves spending time with her kids and being a Mumpreneur.
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