Have you got a child that is very fussy with what they eat? Picky eating can take a few different forms and some kids will only take a couple of bites before putting their fork down while others won’t try anything other than one or two of their favourite foods or they’ll change their mind a lot about what they actually want to eat.
Whichever forms they take, picky eaters can make mealtimes a big source of frustration for everyone and it can also be worrying from a health and nutrition point of view. You might think that there’s nothing you can do to tip the balance back in your favour. Wrong! Here are a few tips to start winning power battles with a fussy eater.
Go for Small Portions
It might seem like common sense to only offer small portions but it’s easy to dish up more than your child will realistically eat and this can put them off certain foods altogether. It’s often better to underestimate how much your child will eat on a first serving and have them asking for a second helping.
Small portions can also work well for introducing new foods. If you’re struggling to get a picky eater to put some foods anywhere near their mouth, try giving them a really tiny piece to begin with.
If you can tempt them to try it, half the battle is won already! In the early days, you might need to try a little bribery by following it up with something they do like eating or making it more fun by turning it into a game.
If it works, you can gradually increase the amount of food you give them and at the same time, reduce how much of the reward food they’re getting afterwards.
Take it slowly
Don't’ feel discouraged if you don’t get anywhere on the first attempt … or even the first few tries. It will often be the case that kids need to try something over 10 times before they cave in and allow themselves to give it a go. Keep at it and you might well get some success!
It won’t necessarily be like this for every food that you try though. Experts suggest that getting them to try a new food for the first time is a major breakthrough and in theory, it should get easier to persuade them to have a go with new foods after this.
Don’t force the issue
Tempting as it may be to tell your child that they have to clear their plate regardless of what’s on it, it’s likely to build a negative association with mealtimes that can make them even less likely to broaden their food tastes.
If you’ve been begging your child to eat different foods, they’re more likely to resist your pleas.
Team up new foods with old favourites
Whenever you try to introduce new foods to your family’s diet, it can be more successful to do this alongside foods that they already enjoy eating.
For vegetables, this might involve making sure that there is a delicious and kid friendly sauce to disguise the true taste. Cheese sauces made from cauliflower or cashews go really well with broccoli, for example. If your kid will happily eat mac ‘n’ cheese or pizza, look for ways to include more veggies in them. If you know that just the sight of veggies will mean an instant refusal, try blending them and then hiding them in sauces so that your child is oblivious to their presence.
Go easy on the snacks
If your child snacks a lot during the day, they’re not likely to be all that hungry when it comes to mealtimes. And if they’re not really hungry, they’re a lot less likely to want to try anything new. A lot of parents don’t realise that their child’s appetite may not be as big as they think so snacks can make a bit difference.
Sitting them down for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enough to stop them getting hungry and with just one snack in the middle to keep them going. They’re a lot more likely to feel hungry for these meals and they may be more inclined to improve their eating habits.
Drinks might seem like a safe option but it’s also been shown that drinking a lot can also fill them up and make mealtimes more of a battle. Ideally, you want to strike a good balance between keeping them hydrated without affecting their appetite for meals.