Unfussy mealtimes with fussy eaters!
The cliche of kids not liking their greens, demanding sugary snacks and making faces at anything new all started for a reason. As solid food becomes a regular feature in their lives, most children take their time to decide what they will and will not eat. Some are happy eating the same thing day in and day out. Some get bored at every meal and need new options. So other than spending all day making ten different kinds of foods and chasing your toddler to finish a meal, what else can you do? These tips may not all be new to you, but we do hope they’re helpful!
Get them involved: This is proven to be effective because when a child is involved in grocery shopping and gets to pick which veggies to cook for dinner, their interest is spiked. Small tasks like stirring, or adding ingredients to a pot gets them excited because they’re seeing their meal come together and don’t treat it like an alien experience at the table. Plus, it’s fun for them and you!
Stick to a routine: As far as possible, have designated meal times, at the table and with the whole family. Insist on no screens and full attention to the food and company. In between meals, schedule healthier snacks like fruits so that when it’s time for the next meal, your child isn’t full of chips and soda.
Make it fun: This takes a little effort, but food that’s in fun shapes or has lots of colour, is always guaranteed to be more exciting for a toddler. Multi-coloured salads, triangular sandwiches, animal crackers and more.
Let them be in charge: Hand over a spoon or chop food into bite-sized pieces, so that your child can learn to eat on his own. This way, the focus is far more on the actual action of eating, rather than fussing about what’s on the plate. Also try letting them arrange the food on their plate the way they want to. It creates a higher degree of involvement and interest.
Avoid ‘bribes’: Rather than saying ‘if you eat the broccoli, you’ll get a cookie’, include a small cookie or piece of chocolate with the meal. It may get eaten first, but it makes the overall plate more attractive. Chances are, the rest of the meal is then approved too!
Practice what you preach: If the veggies on your plate are untouched, your child is going to do the same. So eat together and try and eat similar things, whether you’re just snacking or enjoying a full meal.
Don’t give up on new foods: Trying any kind of new food will be met with resistance by most children. In fact, it may take 10 to 15 tries to get them eat something unfamiliar. Don’t force your child to give in, but try not to give up either. Eventually, curiosity takes over!
Avoid cooking multiple different things for one meal: The biggest challenge in today’s busy world is trying to cater to everyone’s different tastes at the dinner table. Insist on your child learning to eat what’s made for the family, even if just a little bit. At the most, have a backup low-maintenance dish that you’re sure your child will eat, if all else fails.
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Explore favourites further: When you know what foods your child is partial too, bring in variety by choosing similar foods in terms of texture and flavour. If carrots are liked, try pumpkin as well. If oatmeal is enjoyed at breakfast, explore more porridge-like dishes. This way, nothing is an unfamiliar surprise and it doesn’t become boring either.
Be sneaky about fruits and veggies: This is a tried and tested strategy! Bake carrots into a cake, add fresh berries to cereal, serve sweet potato fries with ketchup. The reality is your child isn’t going to stay away from sweets and processed foods. Don’t fight it and instead, just make it work to their and your advantage!
What else do you do to tackle fussiness at meal times? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!