Take action on fussy eaters
￼We know that establishing good eating habits in children fuels growth and development, but refusing new food tastes and textures can often leave parents at a loss. Healthy Kids know there are a number of very good resources available online, so we’ve gathered 18 of our favourite tips below.
1. Be a role model and set a good example by offering your child a taste of what you’re eating.
2. Keep trying! A child sometimes needs to be exposed to a new food up to 10 times before they will eat it. Start with a few mouthfuls and offer it regularly.
3. Serve a meal ‘buffet style’ with bite‐sized servings and allow your child to choose what and how much goes on their plate. Don’t overwhelm them with choices; four is plenty.
4. Learn to differentiate between fussy eating and when your child is actually hungry. Recognise your child’s growth patterns and the variation in their food needs.
5. Don’t try to force feed your child or insist they ‘clean the plate’. This overrides natural feelings of fullness. The more you force them, the less likely they are to eat.
6. Try to not make a fuss over whether a child eats a particular food. If they don’t eat it, they could just be trying to show their independence and see how you will react.
7. Introduce new foods when you know your child will be hungry, such as morning or afternoon snack time. This creates another chance for them to try something new.
8. Avoid asking your child what they want to eat. This opens up the menu to ‘nothing’ or unhealthy food. Allow choice, but set limits by asking whether they’d like choice ‘A’ or choice ‘B’. Do not offer a replacement food if both choices are rejected.
9. Unless a child is unwell they will never voluntarily starve themselves, but they can manipulate you into giving them what they want. The more fuss made, the more likely this behaviour will become entrenched.
10. Ensure everyone who feeds your child agrees on how to deal with requests and refusals.
11. Involve your children in meal planning. Allow them to help with the shopping or food preparation. If they have played a role in making food there is more of a chance they will want to eat it. Talk to them about why you choose the foods you do.
12. Remember that children can only ever eat what is available and you as the parent make this decision.
13. Don’t offer children unhealthy foods as a reward. This will make unhealthy food more desirable. It’s best to use non‐food rewards such as a trip to the park or a game.13.
14. As soon as your child is old enough, serve them the same meal as the rest of the family. Then everyone is eating the same thing and no one is receiving specially prepared meals.
15. Sometimes life for children is too exciting to spend time eating, so it’s important to make meal times a happy time for the family.
16. It is common for a child to love a particular food one day and refuse it the next. Children’s appetites go up and down and they may sometimes have varying preferences.16.
17. Only offer healthy food. If you offer high fat, sugar or salt food in order to get them to ‘eat something’, they’ll start refusing healthier food, especially when they know there are other options.
18. Offering unhealthy treats as bribes might make them eat their meal but means you’re sending mixed messages.