Although fussy eating is a completely normal part of toddler development, it can be quite a challenge for parents. Here are some helpful ways you can manage fussy eaters and encourage more positive eating habits in your little ones!
1. Make mealtimes special
Eat together at the table and remove as many distractions from eating as possible. Make the food appealing to children; remembering that their whole world revolves around having fun. Including a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables won’t just provide extra nutrients, it also adds colour to their plate!
2. Provide healthy foods throughout the day
Young children have small tummies; therefore, snacks can provide up to 50% of their nutrition. Dinner is only one fifth or sixth of their day, so if they don’t eat all their vegies at dinner, it’s no big deal if they have eaten them in other meals and snacks.
3. Turn fruits and veggies into snacks
From zucchini muffins to fruit icy poles, there are many yummy, healthy and kid-friendly snack ideas available online!
4. Get kids involved in food preparation
It’s important for children to develop a healthy relationship with food from a young age. Guide them through simple tasks like picking herbs, rinsing lettuce, cracking eggs, mixing food in a bowl and chopping veggies (safely). Touching, tasting and smelling a variety of ingredients and textures helps them be more comfortable around food.
5. Serve meals earlier rather than later
Tired, distracted or anxious children tend to eat more poorly. Are your kids becoming too tired to have a proper meal? Trying having dinner at 4:30-5pm.
6. Keep snack times consistent
Schedule snack times and allow a good 2 hours in between, rather than having a smorgasbord of food on offer all day.
7. Be a role model
We as parents have the role to teach children what is healthy and good for their bodies – this includes looking after ourselves and taking our fruits and veggies too! Showing your little ones that you enjoy them on a regularly basis will make all the difference.
8. Relax – you’ve got this!
As parents, we can often get stressed about our child’s food intake, but it actually makes the situation worse! Competent eating habits take years to develop and this is completely normal. Include a variety of foods on their plate, but if it’s not eaten, just remove the food without fuss and try again next time!
Karina Savage has over fifteen years of clinical paediatric experience and is the director of Smartbite Nutrition in Sydney. She has worked with the Gastroenterology Department at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in researching infant colic and childhood allergy/intolerance.