Even children who were happy to try new foods as babies can go through phases of fussy eating ? but what do you do when your adventurous little veggie lover suddenly decides to go through life fueled only by a piece of toast (no crusts) and a handful of cheesy crisps?
The first thing to note (which you will no doubt have heard already) is that your child will not starve themselves. They will eat when they are hungry. In the meantime, it is a big worry. We all read so much about what our children should be taking in in terms of nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc. that it can seem impossible not to worry when they aren’t eating right.
It may be tempting to employ all the tools in your parenting arsenal to try to cajole, coax and bribe your little one into eating a new food, but be careful not to turn it into a battle. There comes a point when the more you try to convince your child to eat well, the less inclined they are co co- operate. You also run the risk of giving them a real complex about food; and this is why it is important not to link your child’s fussy eating with anything they can link to poor body image. So while you may want to point out that trying some vegetables could help your little one get big and strong and healthy, you should avoid telling the child that not eating vegetables has made them too skinny/unhealthy/will make them sick. Always link the foods you want your child to eat with positive ideas.
Some children simply need to try new foods in order to realize that they don?t ?hate? them. If your child won?t try new foods, or refuses foods of a particular colour or type, then you need new ways to encourage them to try.
Firstly, a reward chart can really work here so try adding ?try a new food? to your child’s daily re-ward chart. When it comes to actually trying the new food, introduce the feel and sight of it first. This might mean placing the new food on their plate without mention for a day or two. Then ask them to smell the new food. Don?t force the issue ? expect a big ?yuck? and lots of disgusted expressions but just let them pass. Next time you introduce this food, tell them they will get a sticker/stamp/whatever on their reward chart if they will just lick the food. Just a lick and they get a star on the chart. Of course, next time they have to take a little bite, and so on until your child is used to having new foods introduced. It may seem like a lot of work, but it is less work than fighting over mealtimes every day!
Secondly, lead by your own good example by eating healthy, interesting meals with your toddler. This teaches them about table manners and etiquette and allows them to experience new foods through you, so that they are much more likely to be receptive to the idea of trying a new food now and then.
If you are worried about your child’s health or weight, then your first port of call should be your family doctor who will be able to ensure your child is not underweight or suffering as a result of his poor eating habits. They may also be able to offer you some advice on multi-vitamins or supplements to get you through the fussy eating stage. Before choosing an off-the-shelf supplement, speak top your doctor or health visitor and get their advice.
Remember that this will pass ? continue to provide lots of healthy foods with plenty of variation and encourage your child to try them, but don?t overdo the nagging and remember that your doctor is there to help support you through this time and can reassure you on your child’s health.