Let’s face it; our children can be fussy when it comes to their food. If you’re feeling frustrated with your children’s eating habits try a few of these tips:
1. Lead by example
Are you a fussy eater too? If so, try incorporating a wider variety of foods into your own diet. Who knows, maybe your child will see you doing so and will want to copy! Also watch your comments while you are eating or talking about food. What you audibly loathe and moan about, what do you absolutely love and talk up? Notice if these attitudes rub off on your kids.
2. Turn cooking/food preparation into a fun activity
Studies have found that children were more likely to eat food that they had helped to prepare the food. Turn cooking into a fun activity and it might have more benefits than just bonding time!
3. Establish good eating habits
Set up regular eating habits so that your child knows what is expected of them at meal time. For example, sitting at the table with the TV off, eating with cutlery, do you eat as a family or do they eat separately (see our blog post “The Importance of Eating Together as a Family”).
4. Know what their favourite foods are and include them in the meal
It’s ok for children to have preferences, we all do after all, especially when it comes to food. If you know that they like banana then you could make (and even get them to help) a very mild curry dish served with coconut banana slices (banana slices drizzled with lemon and dipped in desiccated coconut). This way, they are getting to try a new cuisine whilst also having at least one food on their plate that they like. What’s their favourite vegetable to eat? Give them a choice of which vegetable they would like for dinner, as long as they have something green on their plate does it matter what…
5. Make sure you serve them a child-sized meal
What can often be seen in the elderly when they are dished up meals that are too large is that they end up feeling too overwhelmed by it all that they end up not eating anything at all. So make sure that your child has the right sized meal for their age.
6. Hide the veggies!
While we are not into deception, and children should know the benefits of eating healthy food and be encouraged to eat fruit and veggies because they are good for them. However if children have preconceived ideas about a food without tasting it or you are worried that your child is a fussy eater and just won’t eat veggies because they don’t like the taste then hiding veggies in foods that you make is always an option! Try grated carrots and zucchini into bolognaise sauce or finely dicing celery, as well as blending steamed cauliflower into mash potatoes. And for sneaky slightly healthier treats which are always popular try beetroot muffins, chocolate avocado mouse, black bean brownies or chickpea cookies. Your child will never know they’re in there, (unless they helped you make them of course).
7. Repeated Exposure Works
Research shows conclusively that the more familiar a taste is, the more acceptable it becomes. Just because your child says no to something after tasting it the first time, don’t give up on the food. Keep exposing them to the same food but in different ways, for example they may prefer raw carrot to cooked carrot, and they may not even notice grated carrot in a Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce. They may not like chicken stew but they are quite happy with grilled chicken. Melon or stewed pear might be rejected the first time because of the texture but served cold on a skewer on a hot summers day or chopped into fruit salad it might go down a treat.
8. If your children really don’t like a certain food, rather don’t focus on that food and turn it into a food war… work around the food and within reason work within their preferences. As much as you can put the focus on how to get healthy food they love into them :)