Does your little one wrinkle his little nose at the mere mention of mealtime? Is he requesting chicken nuggets yet again for lunch? Having fussy eaters at home is perfectly normal. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless to deal with their eating habits. Perhaps you may be handling the problem wrong, too. Don’t worry. These solutions for fussy eating should turn dreadful mealtimes into happy family time with your kids!
What Causes Fussy Eating?
Fussy eaters at home are young children who refuse to eat or prefer to have the same food every time. Other tell-tale signs of a picky eater include:
- lack of interest to try new foods
- dislike for some food items due to smell, texture or taste
- day-to-day indecisiveness of what to eat or irregular appetites
You’ll observe these when they become toddlers, where they now have control over what they want (and don’t want) to eat. And there are several reasons why our kids display erratic eating patterns:
- Growth adjustment. Toddler years involve so many developments for our little ones, from learning motor skills to improving speech. To cope with these rapid changes, children tend to keep other things on static mode. This is why, at times, they don’t mind eating the same food day after day.
- Power struggle. Kids want to be in control of what they eat. Parents also want to control what their kids are eating. When kids sense this tension, the power struggle on the dinner table begins.
- Wrong food messages. And when parents choose to insist on foods that their kids don’t want to eat, the dining experience becomes negative. At times, parents would resort to using dessert as a bribe to get two more bites of vegetables. Now, kids only see broccoli as the enemy blocking their way to get the gooey brownie.
How Do I Handle Picky Eaters?
Seeing that pressure only makes things worse, we parents should forget serving this every mealtime. There are other less stressful ways on how to teach our kids appropriate eating behaviour. These small steps will slowly improve their eating patterns, which they can carry into adulthood.
Introduce new foods gradually
Did you know that you need to expose your child to new or disliked food item several times before he eats it? So, try serving a new dish without him having to eat it. Talk about what it tastes like or what’s good about it. Next time, let him touch or smell it then, eventually, offer him a nibble or two. Give him time to learn and appreciate the food he’s eating. Hey, even adults feel hesitant about unfamiliar food.
Excite them with a wide variety of food choices
Parents often opt to serve the same meal to their fussy eaters at home to keep the table peaceful. However, this practice only heightens their fussiness, affects nutrition and teaches them that meal monotony is acceptable. And so, be a role model and instil the idea that food variety is healthy. Create a cycle meal plan with both new dishes and their favourite foods. That way, you can avoid mealtime battles when you offer salad after serving fried chicken for three consecutive days!
Discover their food preferences
You know how some people like their carrots raw but cannot stand them when cooked? Picky eaters have food and taste preferences, too. Sometimes, you need to add a little seasoning to food, cut it in smaller pieces or blend it to be enjoyable. Apples, for example, can be mushy and grainy when processed. But fresh ones are crisp and juicy. Perhaps, they like their potatoes mashed or some vegetables with butter. Try experimenting in the kitchen! Soon, you’ll have a long list of items to add to your cycle menu.
Offer healthy food options
“Mum, I like to have macaroni and cheese!” Resist playing the short-order cook role and avoid cooking a separate meal for your kids. Here’s a solution you can do: offer your kids options but let your fussy eaters at home decide. Giving them the power to choose makes even healthy meals delectable. For example, you can serve both vegetable sticks and fresh fruits during snack time. This way, even if they go for the apples and bananas, they’re still eating food that’s good for them.
Empower your kids
Aside from giving your kids options on what to eat, here are other ways that make them feel in control to lessen fussiness:
- Offer finger foods. These allow your child to eat with ease on his own. When he can already hold a spoon, let him serve himself and decide what should go onto his plate, too.
- Serve food in small portions. Our kids’ tummy is tiny, so stick to serving small amounts of food. Use individual bowls and plates with compartments for serving mini portions. Being able to finish everything on their plate boosts our children’s confidence.
- Take him grocery shopping. This trip is the best time to teach him about good nutrition and healthy food choices. Take him to different grocery store aisles to learn about all sorts of fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks.
- Teach him how to meal prep. Assign him as your sous chef come food prep time. He’ll be more familiar with how to cook certain food items, too. They’re likely to eat dishes that they help prepare as well.
Make homemade sweets and junk food
It’s hard to say no to kids all the time when they ask for pizza, cookies or ice cream. The thing is you can make dessert and junk food intro nutritious foods by making them homemade. Vegetable pizza, oat cookies and yoghurt popsicles are healthy alternatives that you can make from scratch. Also, rather than eliminate this food group, incorporate it into your family meals. Don’t treat them as rewards and serve them in controlled portions.
Finally, mealtimes should be a joyful affair with the whole family. So, forget about your gadgets and work stress for a while, and talk about happy things while dining. And even if your little one cannot join in the conversation yet, let him know he’s doing a fantastic job for eating his green beans. Creating a feel-good eating environment on the table sends your child the message that, hey, dinnertime is not so bad after all!