Holistic Living

Real mums share tips on dealing with fussy eaters

Picture credit goes to the talented Francesca Pace and her beautiful daughter Gaia from Gaia and Nina Blog

DEALING WITH FUSSY EATERS

Dealing with fussy eaters can prove to be stressful, to say the least. As parents, we often worry if our kids are eating enough of a balanced diet – too much sugar? not enough veg? limited variety of foods? the list of questions goes on ….

If you find yourself desperately crossing your fingers after having slaved away preparing a nutritious and wholesome meal in the hope that it won’t be rejected upon presentation, rest assured that you are not alone!

Many children go through stages of fussy eating and refusing food at some point – it’s completely normal! And even though they are likely to get over it as they grow older, we’re going to offer you some tested tips and tricks that may help in the meantime! I say ‘we’ because I have decided to call in the troops for this one; I have approached a number of mummies and collectively we have come up with the following words of wisdom …..

START THEM EARLY

Research shows that if your child is introduced to a wide variety of food and flavours from weaning, the more likely they are to accept them.

“Charlie actually is quite the opposite of a fussy eater. It may be her character but I also think it’s how we weaned her. As soon as I went through the veg and fruit purees once, I would start adding spices and flavours to them and then almost immediately stopped cooking just for her. I would cook for Malcolm and I and simply blitz.” Sunaina Attard

“I think the more different foods you introduce them to at a young age, the better eaters they become” Sarah Refalo

LET THEM GET HUNGRY

All kids love to snack; FACT! But constant grazing isn’t going to help your cause come mealtimes. Try to limit the amount of snacks your kids have during the course of the day. Allowing them to feel hungry will make them enjoy and appreciate their food once it arrives on the table. As tempting as it may be to hand them a snack whilst cooking to end the whinging “is it ready yet?” – do yourself a favour, DON’T! Give them water instead and ask them to help lay the table.

“My idea of making sure that they’ll eat is cutting out all in between snacks so that they’ll be really hungry come supper time” Natacha Zammit

LITTLE SIDEKICKS

Kids love to get involved! Have them help out in planning the menu and take them along for weekly food shops – explain why you are buying certain foods as opposed to others. Yes it will get messy, but allow them to help out in the kitchen – your little sous chefs will take ownership of the meal you prepare together and will be more likely to eat it as they will feel proud of their creation.

“When they help me prepare a meal they’re a little more interested in tasting what they’ve created” Natacha Zammit

“Get them involved; Today I got them to squeeze the oranges themselves to drink” Sarah Refalo

“I found that once Sienna was of the age that she could help in the kitchen, if she had a hand in preparing the meal she was more excited to eat it” Sacha Meli

“A course we had gone to had suggested taking turns with favorites. So for example today we eat Jack’s favourite meal and we all have to eat it, then tomorrow Millie’s, day after Harry’s etc. – it sometimes works” Luisa O’Connell

FOOD IS FOOD

Try not to make a distinction between our food and their food. Cook a family meal you can all enjoy and serve them a smaller portion.

“I’ve always maintained that the kids should eat the same food as us and usually order a normal main course rather than off the kids menu (which someone decided is fish fingers or nuggets) if we eat out.” Fleur De Trafford

“I always cook as a family, I don’t give the option of a different meal as then they will expect it” Sara Zammit Tabona

BE PERSISTENT

Your child may not take to a particular food straight away and that’s ok. Don’t force them, the food may have to appear on the plate several times before they pluck up the courage to taste it. Don’t give up though, keep offering it – chances are your child will eventually try it and perhaps like it too.

“I also think that kids are allowed to dislike things. But I always keep making it and serving it, one day they will like it again.” Roos Exalto

“I think the worst thing is to force them to eat something. I try to put a mix of food on their plates and if they complain I tell them they don’t have to eat it. I keep putting it each time, even if they don’t like it. One fine day they will eat it without noticing – It’s how I got my youngest to like carrots” Sarah Refalo

“With my kids, when they have had fussy spells, I just continue giving the same food until they start accepting it again which they have done with almost everything.” Fleur de Trafford

CHANGE THINGS UP

When faced with a tantrum or unwillingness to eat – why not offer to change the scene? My mother used to take my kids out to the garden to eat lunch on the garden bench when my kids played up at lunchtime and it amazed me how it would get them to eat every single time! Don’t have a garden? grab a mat and take lunch to the floor for a pretend picnic, grab a few dolls to join in the fun too!

“Al has been a fussy eater since…forever…I’ve found that vegetables will only be ingested in the form of soup and it takes about half an hour or longer for her to eat but she will eventually eat if we come up with a story or role play” Krystyna Cassar Torregiani

“My kids love food however I use certain tricks to help sometimes – I get out a doll or a random soft toy and we play ‘One spoon for Nick and one spoon for baby'” Laura Gasan

HEALTHY HABITS

Surrounding kids with a “healthy” atmosphere is key. Try not to keep junk food around the house. If they don’t have access to junk they won’t want it. If they reach for a snack, they can get used to enjoying healthy alternatives. At this age you have control over what you buy for your kids – try not to introduce the idea that junk is a treat or a reward.

“I also think that having fruit constantly around for example, on the kitchen table, encourages them to take when they want something to nibble” Sarah Refalo

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

When introducing new food, put a small amount of the new food on the plate along with other familiar food that you know your child already likes. Give prominence to their favourite foods and work around them. Don’t load your child’s plate, make sure their portion is suitable or you run the risk of putting them off!

“Soups are great for my kids… Nina will eat them lumpy, Lucia won’t eat them so I blend the soup for her and put it on top of pasta with some olive oil and grated cheese!” Becky Demajo

“Also important not to fill the plate that is an unrealistic size for them to eat” Sara Zammit Tabona

DON’T WORRY

Children are likely to get less fussy as they get older and it is very possible that your child will end up enjoying a variety of food later on in life – so don’t worry too much!

“Take it all with a pinch of salt – Tom was a nightmare and literally did not eat till he was 4. I had decided not to let it get to me when he refused every type of food. I used to offer him his meals but never forced him. Eventually at 4 years old he asked for shepherd’s pie in mid August and never looked back since!” Liza Parlato Trigona

And finally, don’t stress if  you go through phases where absolutely nothing seems to be working – every child is different! But never give up on trying to promote healthy eating around your little ones! Your efforts DO count and every little step is contributing to setting a solid foundation for your child’s future eating habits.

If there are any other tips or tricks you’d like to share with us that have worked for your kids, do get in touch – we’re all in this together so why not help each other out?

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