My 3 year old is a frustratingly picky eater.
Give her her due, she loves meat … she can devour the biggest steak! … fish, cheese, pasta, rice, potato, noodles, cake and ice-cream.
But she never knowingly eats fruit or veg.
The fruit and veg she does consume is mushed within an inch of it’s life and snuck in.
I do have sympathy. I hated veg as a kid.
And I do think children are hard wired – like other infant mammals – to be suspicious of bitter tastes and have a strong gag mechanism to protect them from dodgy stuff.
Which is all well and good but incredibly annoying when you are trying to give them a healthy meal and they refuse to even try something you’ve slaved over!
It’s the refusing to even try bit that gets me most mad. Sometimes littlun’ will try new stuff but most of the time her behaviour regarding new food is appalling!
I don’t totally object to her having just a few bites of new stuff and leaving the rest without fuss. But I do object to a full blown tantrum over a few small pieces of carrot!
So I have been arming myself with an enormous list of tips for picky eaters … if your kids are fussy about food I do hope you find some new ideas that work for your family.
Inevitably there’s disagreement on the best approach … find my a parenting issue where there isn’t!! … so I reckon the trick is to pragmatically pick ideas that fit with your general views on parenting and what you know about my child’s personality and try them out a few at a time …
- Ensure they get sufficient nutrition by hiding fruit & veg in other food
- Build on what they like
- Be firm about whatever rules you follow but don’t make a fuss
- Keep offering new flavours – will take taste buds time to get used to
- Combine something they like with something new
- Don’t make portions too big
- Insist on the “three polite bite” – then leave quietly on side with no fuss
- Get as much variety as you can – if really fussy and will only eat meat at least have different meat, or if bread, lots of different bread etc
- Keep offering – may be 10, 15 times of offering before eaten
- Be realistic – most adults don’t like brussels, focus on things most likely to eat
- Tire them out – so really hungry
- Make sure they’re not too tired between meals
- Don’t get into a power struggle
- Make sure not filled up on snacks so not hungry
- Keep unhealthy snacks etc out of sight or just don’t have them in the house
- Offer small portions of new foods so taste buds get use to it
Lead by Example
- Let them see you eating a varied diet
- Let them see you enjoying fruit and veg
- Give them lots of opportunities to eat with other children
Get Them Involved
- Let them grow their own fruit and veg
- Get them to pick fresh fruit & veg from market or greengrocers
- Let them peel, cut, break up and squidge fruit & veg
- Involve them in meal planning
- Don’t involve them in meal planning – you decide else they will be disappointed
- Let them put post it notes on recipes that they like look of in your cookery books
- Get them to choose something at the shops they’ve never tried before
- Cook together at least once a week
- Spice food up with garlic etc … lots of kids suprisingly like strong flavours
If You Want to Get Strict
- Don’t make separate meals
- Not allowed seconds until tried a little of everything
- No pudding unless eaten a fair amount of main course
- Give choices but only healthy choices
- Offer uneaten food to siblings
- Have a competition to see who can eat most so they are the strongest, fastest
- Give some control but not open choice – just between 2 different things
Make Food Fun
- Give food silly names
- Get a book about body and how digestion works
- Put it on sticks
- Make into animal shapes
- Offer rewards for trying something new
- Give food funny and exciting names
- Tell stories whilst you’re eating meals to distract them from things they don’t like
- Be prepared to help them – feed them some if they’re struggling
- Let them sit on your knee if it gets them to eat something new
- Praise, praise, praise
- Allow them to cover new food in favourite sauce if it gets them to eat it