It is completely normal for a toddler or preschool child to be a fussy eater. They may not like the colour, shape or texture of certain foods. One day they may love to eat strawberries and then the next they refuse to eat them. This all happens because fussy eating is part of children’s development. It’s their way of asserting their independence and exploring their environment.
Children’s appetites can also be a contributing factor to what they will consume over the day. If they are going through a growth spurt or are extremely active, then they will most likely eat more during these times. Their appetites will adjust to what their bodies need, a child would never ‘starve’ themselves.
The good news is that children are more likely to be more adventurous with food the older they get. One day your child will probably eat and enjoy a whole variety of different foods and the fussy stages will be long gone.
One of the main concerns with fussy eating is ensuring that children are getting enough nutrients from what they do choose to eat. Below are some clever ideas on how you can encourage children to healthy options.
Hide the Good Stuff
There are many ways to hide fruits and veggies in your child’s favorite dishes. Adding puree or grated vegetables to bolognaise sauce or hamburger patties is a sneaky way of getting their 5 vegs into their diet. If you cut vegetables finely enough, they can be added to any meal without the child noticing.
Put a face on it
What child doesn’t love a saucy smiley face on a piece of bread!!! Smiley faces can be made using a variety of different foods to encourage children to eat. Whether it be putting a smiley face on foods or making the food itself into a smiley face on the plate, children will be more invited to eat something that looks appealing to them. Why not try different ‘emoji’s’ because we all know how tech-savvy children are these days.
Blend it into a smoothie
Most children will eat maybe one or two types of fruit and only if it is peeled or cut up. So why not try blending a few different fruits into a smoothie, add some yogurt or even some honey. This has now covered a few different food groups, is nutritious and less effort for a child to consume. This can be especially good in the morning when they are tired and are not ready to have a big breakfast, a smoothie would tie them over until they are ready for morning tea and provide them with a great start to the day.
Roll the dice
Why not make mealtimes fun with a game of roll the dice? This game is especially good if you are wanting them to try new foods. Get your child to roll the dice and the number of dots is how many bites they need to have. Why not take it in turns and make it a real game. This is a great way of ‘compromising’ on what they are required to eat before leaving the meals area.
Colouring their food
Sometimes foods can look uninviting or children don’t like the colour of the food, so why not change the colour to their favourite colour at the time. Blue mashed potato for dinner and green custard for dessert how crazy would that be but probably very welcomed by your child. Turn things into the colours of their favourite superhero, let them know that it is Superman food, the ideas are endless.
Get Children Involved
Invite your child to help you prepare and cook the meal. This can encourage them to eat it after putting in their hard work into helping put the meal together. A sense of pride and achievement in what they have done might just prompt them to try new things. This is a great learning opportunity; encourages communication and can also help with the life skills they will need as they grow older. Who knows you might have the next Jamie Oliver in the house?
Put it on a Stick
Children love to eat foods in a different way, they especially love to eat foods of a stick. So why not present foods this way, change your fruits from just in a bowl to threaded on a skewer or instead of a fork/spoon why not offer a toothpick instead.. Why not thread things like meatballs, cheese, fruits, vegetables, tofu, seafood and much more onto a stick and offer a ‘dipping’ sauce. Not only is this fun but they often see ‘grown ups’ do this at parties which will help make them feel more grown-up also. Using skewers or toothpicks will require supervision depending on the ages of the children
Another great idea that especially works well in summer is to freeze foods into ‘ice lollies’ which children just love. Puree or dice up fruit and freeze them in yogurt, freeze the fruit and juice from tinned fruit cans in small portions or make sorbet out of fresh fruit and ice cubes. Another popular idea is making up milo and using the reusable icy pole moulds to freeze this in. These will be welcomed by children on nice warm days and once again encourage them to get the nutrients that they need in an inviting way.
Their ideas are only a small collection of ideas that have been proven to work. Some may work for you and some may not, but it is important to remember to remain calm at mealtimes to ensure that you don’t end up in a battlefield over what they will and won’t eat.