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22Oct 13

Coping with your children’s fussy eating

Most families have fussy eaters. You know the one – the child who eats jam sandwiches every day for every meal and turns their nose up at vegetables!

When Tom and Mary were toddlers, they were fussy eaters. In part, being picky about food was a way for them to explore their independence. But being a mother, I was worried about my children’s nutrition, so I didn’t always handle the situation well, and I sometimes put pressure on them to eat certain foods.

But meal times are a lot easier nowadays! Here are my tips to get over that fussy eating phase.

Coping with your children's fussy eating

Coping with your children’s fussy eating

Changing fussy eating habits

Tom, 10, and Mary, 8, now eat almost everything I put in front of them. But it was a bit of a battle to change my children’s eating patterns and teach them about the long-term benefits of healthy food.

So what are the secrets of my success? I found these guidelines useful:

• Let your kids help prepare simple, healthy meals. When they were small, I used to have Tom and Mary help me by breaking eggs into a bowl for an omelette, or breaking up lettuce by hand for a salad.

• Let your kids choose a meal once a week. They may be fussy, but if they can select a favourite dish, this will make their eating phases less of an issue for everyone.

• Try the “one bite rule”.  Each member of the family has to take one bite of every dish served up at meal time, unless someone has a specific food allergy.  That way, you get food into the fussy eater’s mouth so at least they taste it!  This worked wonders in curbing Mary’s picky eating habits.

• Dessert is not a reward. Some parents think that a bribe of an ice cream will make a child less fussy, but I found that this was not the case. My kids began to think dessert was the best part of the meal.  I now have dessert only at weekends!

Setting a good example

Our children’s food acceptance often depends on their eating environment. That’s where we parents can set a good example by creating a pleasant atmosphere at the family dinner table.

Try to make meals happy, social occasions. Turn off the television and concentrate on what you are eating. In general, if your children see you enjoying food, it will encourage them to do likewise. Also, try to limit discussion about their fussy eating. A good compromise can be that you decide what food and your child decides how much!

What are your tips for dealing with fussy eaters?

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