It can be easy for tension to mount in a household when you have a fussy eater in your midst, but there are many ways you can deal with fussy eating during mealtimes in a positive way:
- Set an example – Kids naturally emulate the people around them so if you want them to eat their greens, ensure you enjoy them too.
- Hide your frustration – Don’t make a fuss about whether your child is eating or not. If they can see that refusing to eat gets a rise out of you, or better yet a sweet treat for them, they’ll be more likely to carry on behaving this way.
- Make mealtimes fun – Whenever possible, get the whole family eating together. Take the time to chat about everyone’s day and take the focus and pressure off food.
- Serve the same food for everyone – Creating separate meals can be an exhausting gesture and won’t promote healthy eating habits in fussy kids.
- Reduce distractions – Turn off electronics including TVs and laptops, and turn your attention to interacting with the people around the dinner table.
- Get creative – If food looks fun, kids are more likely to eat it. Serve portions of pasta or casseroles in little ramekins or allow kids to assemble their own food like tacos or wraps. Fruit and veggies will also look more appealing when they’re made into shapes or served on a skewer.
- Be lovingly persistent – Some fussy eaters need to be regularly exposed to new foods before they’ll take the plunge.
- Serve new foods with familiar foods – A meal that includes one new food with some old favourites is far less overwhelming than a meal with lots of new ingredients.
- Give them a sense of ownership over the meal – If kids are involved in creating a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat up. They could help you wash veggies, toss a salad or set the table.
- Respect their appetite – If a child isn’t hungry, don’t force them to finish their plate. Kids’ appetites will naturally fluctuate with growth spurts and changes in activity levels, and so will their eating habits. Just serve smaller portions and give them the opportunity to ask for more if they need it. Also check that they aren’t filling up on milk and sweet drinks throughout the day.
- Consider their palate – Some kids are naturally sensitive to different tastes and textures. Try raw veggies rather than boiled, or counteract bitter tastes like broccoli with lemon juice.
- Serve foods separately – Many fussy eaters prefer to eat their food separately.
- Invite a good eater to tea – Seeing another child of around the same age eating well may work for some fussy eaters.
- Veggies in disguise – If you’re concerned about their vitamin and mineral intake, add grated veggies to lasagne or tuna patties. You could also consider a specialised kid’s multivitamin to help top up their diets, ensuring they get everything growing bodies need.
- Relax – While it’s natural to worry whether your kids are getting all they need when they seem to be eating so little, if you look at their intake over the week rather than daily, you might be pleasantly surprised at how all that grazing and snacking adds up.