If your child is refusing to eat, it’s very easy to for mealtime to turn into an all-out battle. It’s common for toddlers to turn into fussy eaters, but what can you do to combat the problem? Here are my top tips, based on my learnings from my daughter, family and friends…
1. Introduce Foods Early
It is very important to introduce as many foods as possible to your child at an early age as it gets them used to different tastes and textures. I found that turning mealtime into a game helped with Katie. She loved it when I used to cover her eyes and ask her to guess what she was eating. This also helped with introducing vegetables as she couldn’t see them before tasting them! Take them to the supermarket with you and explain the different foods, or if you have a vegetable patch take them into the garden and get them to touch and smell them.
2. Let them be messy
Allow your child to be messy with their food and have fun playing with it. Just make sure they are wearing a baby bib! You could even get them involved with preparing the meals.
3. Let them get hungry
A child needs to be a little bit hungry so that they can enjoy their food, so in between meal times try giving them water or diluted juice and healthy snacks between meals. Two healthy snacks a day is plenty.
4. Hide your frustrations
It is very easy to get annoyed with a fussy toddler but try and hide your frustrations. Instead, make sure you give them lots of praise when they eat their food or try something new. This will make mealtimes a lot let stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
5. Avoid junk food
Try and avoid junk food. If they don’t have access to these foods they won’t know what they taste like. You have control over what you buy for your children, so try and keep sweet and salty foods to a minimum.
6. Make it small
When you are introducing new foods to your child, try not to overwhelm them by giving them too much. I used to give Katie a tablespoon – that way it wasn’t wasted if she really didn’t like it! You could even give them the option of choosing the size spoon they would like, so they feel they are in control.
7. Pair foods with things you know they enjoy
If you are introducing new foods, try pairing it with foods you know that they like. I used to do this with Katie as it meant there was always something on her plate that she would definitely eat.
8. Disguise Vegetables
If your little one really doesn’t like vegetables try creating recipes where you can blend the vegetables. Good examples are tomato and vegetable sauce for pasta, or sweetcorn in fishcakes. If they can’t see it, they can’t pick it out.
9. Don’t force them to eat
Sometimes your child may not want to eat, so don’t force them. Try setting a time limit for each meal and if they haven’t eaten their meal after that time call it a day. Whatever you do, do not offer the sweet stuff as bribes or you won’t ever crack a picky eater!
10. Ask an adult for support
Invite an adult (grandparents, friend) that you know your child likes to come and eat with you. Sometimes they will eat for someone else without any problems.