Healthy Eating Tips and Advice from PediaSure
Fussy eating is a challenge, but we have some tricks up our sleeve to help you make meal times less stressful. Read these tips from the PediaSure team on getting balanced nutrition into fussy eaters.
You pay all the bills. You make all the important decisions. You carefully plan all the meals. Yet no matter what, something orange like carrot, or something green like broccoli, or even something as inoffensive as pasta, can be happily eaten one week, but not the next. And let’s not mention peas. Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of good. Just keep trying without it getting on your nerves. Remember kids are very canny at picking up on your emotions. Here are some tips to help you navigate the sometimes very troubled waters of meal times. And to keep you in control as the adult.
Tips for introducing new flavours
These techniques may take a while, but hopefully you’ll find meal times become a happier time for you and your child. Try them out, but be patient:
1. Small is the way forward. Give your child something little to try, like a single pea, a slice of cheese or a tiny piece of spaghetti. Then try increasing the amount very slightly each day, until they’re eating the correct size portion for their age.
2. Keep it low key. When you give your child something new to eat, be casual about it, as if it’s nothing important. If they don’t try it, keep your cool and don’t react. Children pick up on our moods, and will quickly associate that particular food with negative emotions. As the poster says: ‘Keep calm and carry on’.
3. Slow wins the race. Take your time, there’s no rush. Don’t bombard your child with lots of new flavours at once. Slowly introduce them over time and add the occasional new food to a meal they like – don’t try and hide it though.
4. Keep a chart. Kids love filling in charts and putting stickers on things. Every time they try a new food, reward them by giving them a new sticker or letting them colour in a new vegetable on their ‘taste chart’. You can even record their progress by taking a photograph or video. This is especially handy if they’ve gone off a food and you need to remind them that they like it.
5. Learning from others. Children have a tendency to copy their friends. If your child has a friend who’s more of an adventurous eater, invite them round for tea. Your child will be more likely to try a new food if they see their friend eating it. Alternatively, sit and eat your own meal when your child eats theirs – you may find they’ll want to try some of the food on your plate.
As a parent of a fussy eater you probably hear lots of things on the subject. Everybody’s got a suggestion or view – but is there any truth in some of the most common myths?
If your kid rejects food, don’t try it again. Research has shown you may have to offer a new food between 6-15 times[LC1] 1 before your child accepts it. So keep persevering, maybe try it in a different recipe or serving it alongside something they do like. Remember, persistence is key and fussy eating is a phase that many children will grow out of, be patient.
They’re just being difficult. Pickiness doesn’t necessarily mean your child is trying to assert control. Rather than battling with your child, let them learn to like a variety of foods at their own pace and give them lots of support and encouragement.
Children always have to eat at mealtimes. It’s normal for children to eat very little at some mealtimes (or not at all), then tuck into loads of food at others. Try not to worry about what your child eats in a day, it’s more important to think about what they eat over a week. In other words, don’t suddenly panic if they don’t even swallow a pea at one meal.
It’s a good idea to hide foods. Although children might be charmingly naïve, they’re not silly. When they inevitably discover you’ve carefully hidden new foods, they’ll stop trusting you, which could make meal times more problematic. Plus, trying to hide certain foods among those they like could affect the taste of the foods they enjoy, putting them off their favourites too.
Don’t let them play with their food. Children should be encouraged to use their entire sensory system to experience food – it’s how they learn about taste, temperature and texture. Don’t be too quick to wipe sticky fingers and messy chins.
Reference: 1. Ventura AK, Worobey J. Curr Biol 2013; 23(9):R401–408
Children love routines. They give them a sense of security and control, especially as a child’s fear of the unknown can range from a suspicious new vegetable to moving house. But routine doesn’t necessarily mean boring, for example, Friday DVD night and Saturday morning at the park. Plus, focusing on time together can help strengthen relationships too.
Developing these everyday routines is also another great way to help you get your fussy eater back on track:
- Create a routine for other daily activities – including things like naps, baths and playtime – this will help meal times fall into place more naturally.
- Schedule regular meal and snack times – even if other daily activities don’t happen as planned, do what you can to keep meal times on schedule. This will help your child develop healthy eating routines and recognise the patterns of hunger and fullness.
- Eat at the table with the rest of the family – this gives your child a sense of community and they’ll start to think of meal times as a social part of the day.
If you want to increase the range of foods your child will eat, it can be a good idea to initially give them some of their preferred foods, whilst gently encouraging them to try other foods. Some children like to design a ‘Food Ladder’ where they decide on foods they’d like to try in order of difficulty and gradually work their way up the ‘ladder’.
Getting your fussy eater to try new foods can be challenging - especially when it comes to vegetables. Hopefully this selection of really handy hints will soon make mealtimes more enjoyable for you – and your little treasure.