Fussy eating can creep in between the ages of 2-6 years and is (thankfully) a phase most children will grow out of. Implementing some practical strategies to deal with food refusal during this stage, can have a huge impact on how willing they are to try new foods and how their eating habits are ultimately shaped.
The most common concern is trying to get typical fussy eaters away from a ‘white’ diet, filled with refined carbohydrates i.e white rice, pasta, cheese and processed snacks, and work to include nutritious foods such as vegetables, slow-release carbohydrates, iron-rich protein and healthy fats.
3 tips for dealing with fussy eating
Mealtimes should be a social experience with your children. As adults, we don’t naturally sit alone (quiet) to eat our meal. Try to have as many family meals together as possible, they will be much more inclined to try new things.
Encourage your little ones to touch, smell and engage with their food. This starts right from shopping for groceries. Can they help take items off the shelves? Encourage them to pick up a carrot, an apple or a zucchini from the shelf and place it in the basket or trolley themselves – this begins the engagement with the new food. Can they put the dish or new veggie onto the table for the family? Don’t be disappointed if they don’t eat the new food the first time it’s offered – stay positive, freeze what is not eaten and offer it again.
Make new foods familiar by repeatedly offering them in a calm, familiar environment. A child will not go to a stranger the first time they meet them, but after a few visits, they generally feel more comfortable. The same goes for new foods. Repeated exposure aids the process of engaging with new tastes and flavours. You can also try offering these same foods in different ways – cut into fun shapes, laid out in colour patterns, steamed veggies rather than raw. It is important to note that change doesn’t happen overnight and it’s a slow process, especially where fussy eating is concerned. Praising small changes along the way is of utmost importance. A small percentage of children will require intervention as a result of physiological or psychological reasons for their ongoing food refusal. These children are classified as ‘problem feeders‘. In these instances, it’s recommended to seek expert support.