If your toddler seems to only eat Cheerios, waffles, pasta, and Goldfish crackers, or your preschooler demands grilled cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you may have a fussy eater on your hands.
But, don’t fret!
Why is My Child a Fussy Eater?
While some parents on social media paint a perfect picture of young children happily eating their whole grains, almond milk, fruits, and veggies within posts, the truth is it is quite normal for younger children to be fussy eaters. Moreover, this sometimes has to do with the texture, color, or even shape of the food item offered to them.
While kids refusing to try new foods can be frustrating for parents, the very behavior is typical within littler children. In fact, parents may even find that their children love a type of food one day but hate it with a passion the next. Dealing with fussy eaters can feel like a rollercoaster ride
Why do fussy eaters like to keep parents on their toes like this? It’s a key part of their development. It serves as a way for kids to assert independence while exploring their environment.
Overall, their appetites will vary based on their growth spurts and how active they are day-to-day. This is why they will eat like scavengers one day and put up their nose the next night.
Tips for Dealing with a Fussy Eater
Still, there is a silver lining to all this picky eating: children generally do subside in fussiness as they get older and will eventually enjoy a diverse range of food as they grow. While good news, this still doesn’t help parents living in the fussy eating stage right now.
Well, for those dealing with this right now, below are some tips on things you can do to help your fussy eater along.
Create a Stress-Free Environment
Create a happy, stress-free mealtime environment.
As such, don’t act negatively if food falls on the floor or drinks spill on the table, instead keep things light and social. Have regular family dinners since they create routines for younger children.
Lastly, ensure that the television is off and there are no devices at the table while eating. This will simply distract your child when it comes to eating.
Don’t expect your fussy eater to try new foods from the get-go. As such, encourage baby steps at mealtime. Start by telling your little one to smell, touch, or lick a new item of food presented to them. The next time the food is offered, perhaps try a bite.
Praise them every time they take a positive step in the right direction when it comes to trying something new. Before you know it, they’ll be asking for extra helpings.
Refrain from forcing your child to try new foods. It can take up to as much as 10 times of seeing a new food before a little one will try it.
Easier said than done. However, by having patience with your kid when they refuse to try new food works so much better than pressuring them to try it.
Refrain from getting discouraged and keep offering your kids new healthy choices so they can familiarize themselves with the item — even when they refuse them. You may want to think about serving new food items with some of your child’s already favorite go-to foods to add a sense of comfort and familiarity on their plate.
This tip is a challenging one. However, try your best to ignore their behavior as giving it attention can sometimes encourage kids to act this way.
Mealtime doesn’t have to be mundane. In fact, it’s all about promoting a positive and fun environment for children.
Possible ways to make mealtime fun include:
- Cutting food into a variety of fun shapes;
- Serving colorful foods within your meals to grab your child’s attention;
- Shaking things up by occasionally offering breakfast or lunch foods for dinner, and;
- Offering their favorite sauce as a dip for veggies.
Don’t Prep Separate Meals
Refrain from preparing a different plate for your child if they have rejected a meal you have made before. This will only encourage their picky eating. Additionally, ensure your child stays at the table until everyone is done, whether they have eaten or not.
If they refuse to eat what is on their plate, simply wait until the next meal before offering them more food.
Ask for Their Input
Bring your child along when you shop for groceries shop. Ask them for help when it comes to choosing veggies, fruits, and other healthy foods.
When it comes to meals at home, ask your child for assistance around with the preparation of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Little ones can help when it comes to:
- Cleaning fruits and veggies;
- Tossing items into a salad bowl, and;
- Setting the table.
Engaging them in these activities will help them feel more a part of things. Plus, they won’t be as surprised about what they see on their plate because they were part of the process.
The “No” Dessert Rule
Most households have this rule when it comes to their kids: no dessert unless your dinner plate is clean. Unfortunately, withholding sweet treats relays a message to children that this is, in fact, the “best” kind of food. As such, in the long run, their desire to reach for not-so-healthy food increases.
Either designate one to two nights weekly for dessert or think about redefining what after-dinner dessert can be. Rather than offering a brownie, pie, or cupcake, change that item to fruit, frozen yogurt, granola, or other healthy options.
Be a Role Model
If you want your kids to eat healthily and try new foods, you as a parent must set a good example. When parents reach for a diverse set of healthy and nutritious food items, children generally follow suit.
At the end of the day, remember that these tips will help encourage your child to eat better and try new foods.
Remember that their habits will not change overnight. Baby steps in the right direction will eventually turn into larger leaps where they create a positive outlook around healthy eating that will carry them throughout their entire lives.