Children do indeed have their own minds, they have their likes and dislikes, and while they should definitely be encouraged to make their own choices, when it comes to food and nutrition, it can be incredibly frustrating for you as a parent. Fussy eating often becomes a battle of the wills as you try to hold out longer than your child. Luckily, there are a few things that you can try to encourage your child to stop being so fussy; let’s get into it.
Know Where Fussy Eating Comes From
Fussy eating is different for different kids, but in general, it is an avoidant behaviour triggered by certain foods, flavours or textures. The first thing that you need to do is to work out why they are avoiding the food. Is it just because they dislike the taste, or are they okay with the taste, but the texture puts them off? Some children have an incredibly – for lack of a better word – dramatic reaction to the food, gagging, retching or spitting it out, whereas other children will not even try the food at all. Sometimes fussy behaviours are rooted in psychology and have nothing to do with the food itself. Some kids are afraid of new things or of change. The foods that they like are safe and comfortable. The fussy behaviours also tend to be more pronounced if you don’t start soon enough; if your toddler settles into their eating habits early on, they are far more likely to display fussy behaviours when introduced to new foods later in life.
Fussy Eating & Weight
There are two potential outcomes when it comes to fussy eating and weight. Depending on the range of foods that they will eat if they are unhealthy, then they are more likely to be overweight. If their safe foods are pretty nutritionally varied, then this might not be a concern. On the other hand, some fussy children could view eating as a chore, and they are more likely to pick at their food and undereat, which in turn could make them underweight. However, their weight is arguably less important than their health. Regardless of what your child will or won’t eat, the most important thing is that they are having their nutritional needs met. If you are concerned, then you can have Childhealthy carry out a nutritional assessment.
Dealing with Fussy Eaters
Consistency and persistence are really all you can do. It is said that it takes upwards of ten tries before you can really decide if you dislike a certain food. If you prepare these foods for your child enough times in a variety of different ways, you might just find one that they like. You should also make sure that you are modelling the behaviour that you want to see. Do you always eat your fruits and veg? If not, why would your child? Lastly, try to think about how you let them approach eating; sometimes, children are much more likely to try foods if you let them explore them first. This might mean letting them get a little messy, but it is worth it if they give those foods a try.
Dealing with a fussy eater can be really challenging but stick with it. Remember to give them options to choose between – they still have healthy choices, but you are giving them more autonomy. Patience is key; it is frustrating, but try to keep your cool.