Mealtimes can sometimes be a headache. When I was a child my mother struggled to get me to eat anything and I don’t mean just healthy food. She worried to the point that she would be happy with me eating anything just to keep my strength up. It is a scary time but be assured you are not the only parent suffering. Fussy eating in children is normal. Young children have far more taste buds than adults and are much more sensitive to taste so it is no wonder that sometimes they have phases where they just don’t want to eat. Here are some tips to help you get through strenuous mealtimes.
Remember that it’s normal- Most young children will spend a phase eating only a few foods, ones they feel comfortable with. They become scared by new foods, and like to stick to what they know best. This time will pass so don’t get caught up worrying about it. Make sure you stick to healthy foods where possible (It’s best if healthy is all they have ever known).
Don’t fret- Try not to show anxiety at mealtimes. Make out like it is no big deal. The more that you fret about your child’s fussy habits, the more they are likely to worry that something is wrong. You want your child to feel comfortable with what they are eating. The food is unfamiliar to them so make them feel relaxed.
Help build up an appetite- A little exercise will do wonders for your child’s appetite. Of course if they are hungry they are more likely to want to eat.
Model eating- Again without making a deal of it, make sure that your child sees you eating the same food. Make a game out of it and keep it light hearted.
Praise your child- When your child does eat a little, praise them for eating a lot (but not for trying something they didn’t want to try). You don’t want to give them a negative association with the food.
Try not to bribe- It is very easy to bribe children with ice cream but that just makes them see healthy food negatively and unhealthy food as a treat. Try to keep rewards to praise only.
Use time limits- You don’t want to make mealtime a chore for your child. Set times and once time runs out ask them for one more spoon and let them go. You don’t need to force or threaten. Try to eat together and keep praising and talking about how tasty the food is as they eat.
Use small portions and build up- By keeping meals small, children have an obtainable target. Giving children too much makes it daunting, so they don’t even start.
Take your child shopping- Let your child pick the foods they want (with a little guidance). If they have chosen it they are more likely to eat it, as long as you cook it well 🙂