Many children go through phases of being fussy eaters. Some outgrow it, but others will permanently remain fussy throughout their lives. But is there anything we, as parents, can do to prevent it and what can we do to steer our children towards a healthy relationship with food?
1. Lead by example
As role models to our children it’s imperative that we practice what we preach when it comes to a balanced diet and being adventurous when trying new foods. If we wrinkle up our noses at something peculiar looking on our plate, then they will copy that. Likewise, if we push all the peas to the side of the plate and refuse to eat them, they will do the same. Try to encourage your child to try new foods and let them know that it’s OK to not like something, but it’s not OK to not even try.
2. Banish bad influencers
Perhaps your child was a real veggie lover…right until the point when she had a meal with her new friend who complained about all the green on her plate. Unfortunately peer pressure is a big factor even for a three year old and if you notice a friend who is a fussy eater, you may simply have to decline future invitations to dine with them and try to get your child back to loving her veggies. It’s important of course for children to understand the social importance of sharing a meal with friends, but pick those friends wisely!
3. Ration treats
If your child is a fussy eater and refuses to eat at meal times, don’t force it. It can be a painful experience for both you and your child to have to sit at the table until the plate is clean. Make sure your child understands that if they don’t eat their meal, there is no more food until the next meal. Once you have an understanding then you can let them get down from the table, but stick to your guns! When your child comes to you an hour later asking for sweets or a snack, don’t give it to him. There will of course be tears and tantrums but it’s an important lesson to learn, and one that will sink in eventually.
4. Restrict snacking
Does your child snack a lot between meals? It might not appear that they’re eating that much in between but they do have tiny tummies and snacking between meals would fill them up such that they simply don’t have any room for more food at meal times. So it’s quite possible that your fussy eater isn’t really that fussy, they’ve just eaten too much already. So limit the snacks and you may quickly find that mealtimes are more enjoyable, and successful!
Of course, dealing with a fussy eater can be a battle at mealtimes and turning them into the best eaters won’t happen over night. Keep working at it and hopefully your child will be adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, and will enjoy eating most of what he’s given. Good luck!