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Anyone who has read this blog much will know that my 3 year old daughter is a fussy eater.
She loves meat, fish, cheese, pasta and cake but never knowingly consumes a whole piece of fruit or veg. Any fruit and veg she does consume, is pulverised within an inch of it's life and hidden in just about everything I can think of.
I do have some sympathy. I hated veg as a child and I do think children are pretty hard wired - like most other infant mammals - to be suspicious of bitter tastes and to have an over developed gag mechanism.
And I'll give my daughter her due, she does try sometimes but on a lot of occasions her behaviour regarding new food is downright rubbish. I don't object to her having a nibble and leaving it on her plate without a fuss, I do object to a full blown tantrum at the dinner table due to the presence of a few small pieces of carrot!
So I have been rummaging around for tips and put together this list in the hope that there might be some things on here that will make a difference. Inevitably, there are all sorts of contradictory ideas here between the hard-liners who say children should just eat what they're given and at the other extreme those, who think it's best to coax and cajole them into trying something new.
I guess, it's a matter of knowing your own child and your own general views on parenting styles and then trying to be consistent ...
- Ensure they are getting sufficient nutrition by hiding fruit & veg in other food
- Build on what they like
- Be firm about whatever rules you are following 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 "one polite bite" - then life 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, lots of different pasta
- Keep offering - may be 10, 15 times of offering before eaten
- Be realistic - most children 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
Involve them in food preparation
- 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 in the greengrocers or supermarket they've never tried before
- Cook together at least once a week
- Spice food up with garlic etc
- 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 the most so that 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
Converting my little fussy eater is definitely a work in progress so I will keep updating this as I find new things and discover what best helps us. I would love to hear your ideas and what has and hasn't worked for you - so do come and tell me about them on Twitter and Facebook.
If you're looking for more ideas check out my fussy eaters Pinterest board and if you'd like to pin with me on the board, put your Pinterest URL in the comments below and I will send you an invite.