Do your kids ever stop eating? Fussy and wont eat (insert colour or texture)? Do you feel like you're always in the kitchen feeding hungry, fussy mouths? They're hungry for snacks, not for meals? You're pulling together a quick breaky before rushing out the door to work/ school, you are making lunches or thinking about what to eat for dinner.
It can can be exhausting!
I get it! I have 3 kids and whilst they're pretty good, there is definitely stages where green apples are repulsive then okay the next. This is completely natural and children often cycle through stages with foods, colours and textures as their tastes buds develop.
Its hard to keep up but read on as I have some tips for you!
One of the most common nutritional concerns from parents is their children’s fussy eating.
Rejection of certain foods at mealtimes is a natural course of a child development. Children reject foods for many reasons and it’s common for them to be suspicious of new things.
Arm this with their new found independence and you have a battle of epic proportions on your hands, if not dealt with in the right way.
The four truths of fussy eating
It is a nutritional challenge
It is completely normal
It generally passes
Can create frustrations and stress for all
However, there are some common beliefs with those endured it before you. They are:
Be a good role model with your own eating habits
Keep offering healthy food, don’t worry if it get rejected
Eat as a family, at the table
It will pass, all children at different stages. Ground work is key
Healthy children won’t starve themselves
While these can be helpful to keep in mind in the long run, it’s the short term, the now that creates the frustrations and stress. So, considering the following can help in these times.
Natural childish suspicion. Children are naturally suspicion of new things. Call it primal nature. Generally at the same time children are gaining sense of their own independence and control, building their own character and ultimately yours, how you act and perceive this as a challenge will determine the outcome.
Two key aspects of dealing with this suspicion are to act slowly and consistently. For example;
Involve your children in the process of food selection & preparation
Create a hand on experience by having your children grow, tend to & harvest their own food
Involve them in stirring, mixing & baking their own food.
Involvement in the meal preparation really does work, it is however an on-going process so patience is the key.
Sneaking the healthy stuff in. Whilst grating and pulverizing vegetables to hide their existence doesn’t address the concerns of children’s suspicions it essentially does three things;
It provides a variety of nutrients to their diet
It reduces your stress about their nutrition
It ensures that, subtly your child is being exposed to different tastes and textures
When children are involved in the preparation and cooking process you will find, interestingly enough, that they will happily grate zucchini, mix it in with a chocolate cake and eat it!
They will grow out of it. Whilst some children grow out of fussiness faster than others, expect that it can be a lengthy process. The results will depend on your consistency and approach.
It is more common for children to grow out of their fussiness at school age when they have more acceptances of change and things unknown.
Understanding that it isn’t something that you have caused, and that it’s a natural process that changes over time should alleviate some of the pressure in the now.
Influence and Persistence. There are studies that show we shouldn’t force or coerce children to eat particular foods and allow them to choose for themselves. The problems that arise from this approach is if when children are allowed to choose what they wish to eat, inherent food preferences such as sweet and sugary foods, this will attribute to their energy needs than if provided healthy and diverse options by their parents.
Children require ongoing encouragement from parents to try new foods, and in different ways. Try approaching change at different mealtimes, snacks to ensure that the negative association with a particular time doesn’t occur.
Be mindful that children develop food dislikes. Like adults, children have food preferences. That’s not to say if I child doesn’t eat a food that you stop offering. It’s just a point that like us, there will be certain foods that a child wont at. This isn’t to say that things will change, our taste change and mature.
It’s important to keep in mind that as much as you offer, a child may never accept that food. For now anyway.
The critical point is to ensure that their energy needs are met with healthy food.
There is a time and place for everything. There is nothing wrong with the occasionally treat; just ensure that it is within the recommended guidelines. Create associations around these foods. For example;
Ice-cream for Saturday afternoon treat
Lollies and chips at a party are ok but not for the pantry at home
Small amounts of diluted 100% juice (try use pulp too for extra fibre) with meals can help with iron absorption and satisfy their want for these sweet drinks
Smoothies are an ideal sweet treat. Blitz frozen banana, berries and milk. Get them involved in making this and try adding spinach or avocado for extra nutrients. They won’t taste the difference!
Given the right environment, most children will grow out of this phase in time. Growing their own vegetables creates an innate connection with Mother Nature, one that is always giving.
Remember foremost, you have fun with food, developing a good relationship with food in the formative years is essential for body and mind.
P.S Check out the recipes page on this website for family friendly meals your kids will eat!
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