Exhausted from Tantrums at dinner time? Tired of uneaten meals?
Fussy or picky eating is one of the most common issues parents can face with their young children. Mealtimes turn into a battle with the child declining to eat particular foods or refusing to go near anything unfamiliar. Even the most patient parents become worried about their child's dietary consumption and worn out from the drama with fussy eaters.
It is important to remember that this is not your fault as a parent! It is common in childhood for kids to be fussy about the foods they eat, whether it is the taste, colour, shape, or texture of certain foods. Parents have reported that fussy eating by children increases from 19% to 50%, between the ages of 4 and 24 months. Children may like something one day but hate it the next, flat out refuse new foods, or choose to eat smaller or larger amounts from day to day. This is often referred to as neophobia and is a developmental stage where babies and toddlers have a real fear of trying new foods.
While it can be incredibly daunting, most children will grow out of their fussy eating habits. By utilising highly effective strategies for picky eaters, babies and toddlers will learn to eat a wide range of foods. If your child is a fussy or picky eater, try the tips on this page – hopefully they will help!
1. Try not to stress about it.
There’s no point in stressing about the small stuff when it comes to kids and fussy eating! There will be times when your toddler is simply not hungry, and while it may be tough, it is important to try and make mealtimes a pleasant and low-stress occasion. This will help your child think of meals as enjoyable and relaxing.
Keeping the meal environment calm and any distractions far from the dinner table will help your little one focus on eating. Try not to worry about your toddler not finishing their meal, or any messes or spills that may happen during mealtime.
2. Keep it short and sweet.
Toddlers shouldn’t be sitting for longer than 5 – 10 minutes when eating. Set a time limit for meals and if your child hasn’t eaten their food in this time, try not to make a fuss and simply remove it. You can try again at the next mealtime.
3. Build good eating behaviours or habits.
Your child will eat what you eat – they love to copy you! Eat together as a family and serve your toddler the same meal as everyone else. Use this time to model healthy eating. Praise works well with children, so giving them positive feedback on the habits you want continued will encourage your child to try new foods more willingly.
Try not to offer alternatives to eat. If your toddler is hungry, they will eat the food that is in front of them. Resist the urge to make another meal if your little one refuses as this will only encourage fussy eating.
4. Make food fun for fussy eaters!
Make sure you let your toddler know that they can play with their food at family meals, and that it is ok to get a bit messy! Enjoying and discovering new food for your little one means using their senses - touching, feeling, tasting, and playing with food.
You can make healthy foods fun! Cut their food into interesting shapes, offer a variety of sizes and colours. Kids also tend to enjoy foods involving a dip, and finger foods can be a real hit because they feel like an adult.
5. Introduce a wide range of foods to your picky eater.
Giving your child something new to go along with their main meal is a great way to get them to try new things. And they’ll be much happier knowing they don’t have to miss out on a tea they already love.
6. Avoid Snacks just before meals.
Avoid offering snacks just before meals. A 1 or 2-hour gap will help your child to feel hungrier by mealtime. If your child asks for food but doesn’t seem hungry, try to keep them busy.
7. Try adding in Smoothies.
A great way to get added nutrients into your toddler’s diet if they are a fussy eater is Smoothies! Try adding a smoothie twice a day to your child’s diet - smoothies are super versatile, and very quick and easy to put together, which is perfect when you have a busy family lifestyle. PLUS, your little one can help you make them too! When children have more say in what they’re eating, they’re more likely to be interested in it. Just remember not to rely too much on smoothies – they should be an addition to your toddles diet, not a meal replacement (however tempting that may be when things get super frustrating).
Keep trying! It can take multiple attempts for children to become familiar with and enjoy new foods. Remember if your child is healthy and has enough energy to play, learn and explore, they’re probably eating enough! Do your best to teach your little one healthy eating habits, and if you’re concerned about your child’s diet, then talk with your GP.