When it comes to food, we all have our preferences. Some love spice, some can’t handle it. What may be too sweet for someone may be not enough for the other. Throughout the years we learn what we like and dislike, but as children we haven’t been able to experience all the possible foods, and when we do, we may have had unpleasant experiences. It may be that as a result of these experiences, children will enter the dreaded “fussy eater” phase. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to keep fussy eaters satisfied.
Introduce them to different foods as early as possible:
The best way to tackle any problem is to address it as early on as possible. The main reason for fussy eating habits is that they may have been exposed to a very limited number, or types, of food. They are therefore unwilling to risk trying something else. Even if they do, it will be unfamiliar and therefore, they’re less likely to enjoy it. By introducing foods earlier on, your child will either become accustomed to the flavour and enjoy it, and if not then you know it is because the food is just not for them
Make mealtimes fun:
Any task that is made to seem like a chore will be done with much less excitement and approached in a negative mindset. By making mealtimes fun and engaging, your child will be more likely to approach it with an open mind and therefore try new foods. This could be done by trying to have dinner in a new spot rather than the dining table or present it as a game!
In extension of this, meals can also be presented in fun and interesting ways. We have all heard that presentation is an important part of a meal, and this is especially the case if you want to make certain foods look more appealing. For example, you could try to make a landscape with broccoli as trees!
Bringing new food items out of the blue is a sure-fire way for your child to not even attempt to try the food, let alone get to enjoy it. Instead, bring them in bit by bit until they get accustomed, and it becomes a regular part of their pallet.
From there, you can begin to introduce the food in its entirety as you child will already be used to the flavour and texture. For example, a lot of kids, and adults, avoid mushrooms because they are perceived to be such an unfamiliar food. To get around this, you can begin by adding small pieces to an omelette for example, and then work your way up.
Try to have others eat the same foods as well:
As with almost anything, your child will learn by example. If they see you trying certain foods at the dinner table, they will be more likely to do so as well. In addition to this, if you have other children at the dinner table that enjoy that certain food, having them eat it with your child at the same time will increase the chances of them trying it as they will want to fit in.
Don’t force them to try something:
Whilst it can be greatly inconvenient when your child won’t eat something, especially something that is good for them or a staple in your cooking, the absolute worst thing that you can do is force them to try it. The reason for this is that even if they do enjoy it, being forced to try it will attach a negative experience to that food. They will then be less open to eating it in the future, and even less likely to try it again.
Get them involved with cooking:
A great way to get older kids more interested in the food they are eating and therefore more likely to eat it, is by involving them in the cooking process. By asking them to help even with simple tasks such as sifting flour or adding seasoning to the meat, a social aspect is then attached to the activity. Furthermore, if they have contributed to making the food, they will want to try it themselves and that is when further praise can be given for creating a great tasting meal!
Furthermore, if you have a house with a garden, growing your own vegetables is not only a great hobby, but also a great way to get your kids to eat them. By asking them to help in the garden or even pick them out of the ground, you can teach them about where they come from and why they are good for you in an interactive way!
Be careful with snacks:
Even adults are guilty of spoiling our appetites by snacking throughout the day, which we all know is a bad habit. If your child is a fussy eater, then giving them snacks throughout the day will only encourage their behaviour as they will never be hungry, instead always being full on foods they know they enjoy. To avoid this, try to stick to 2 healthy snacks throughout the day as recommended by the NHS. This is a great way to make sure your child is getting all their food groups in, whilst also opening the window to introduce new foods.
A good trick is to always have some healthy snacks on hand. Good options include vegetable sticks, assorted fruits, or even healthy crisp alternatives. For younger children you could time when these snacks are given out, whereas for older children you could leave an empty shelf on the lower side of the fridge or cupboard where they could reach them themselves as and when they need them.
One of the most important things to do when your child is a fussy eater is to be patient. It can be greatly frustrating when your child won’t eat what everyone else is eating, especially if you have had a long day or prepared a nice meal but becoming annoyed with them will only make it worse. Instead, understand that as much as children grow and change quickly, so do their tastebuds. Come back after a month and see if they will try the food, if not take a longer break.
As a bonus for sticking to the end, we have a few bonus tips:
- Start bland, then add extras
A good way to introduce new flavours slowly like we mentioned is to start with something that your child does eat and add to it. For example, if your child likes potatoes, you can try different toppings on their jacket potatoes to find what they like.
“Ooh that looks good” is something we have all said before trying a new food. The same phrase goes through your child’s mind when food is presented nicely, making them more likely to eat it. You can try different shapes, layering, or even changing up what it is served on.
Having fussy eaters at the dinner table is never easy, but it doesn’t mean that you must limit the foods they eat for their whole lives. By taking onboard these tips, you can expand their food options slowly but surely and make mealtimes more enjoyable for them and yourself.