Is your child a fussy eater? Maybe they’re never managing to clear their plate at mealtimes, or they refuse to try new foods, or maybe they just eat foods of a certain colour? Hey, these are all little quirks kids can show when they are in their early developmental stages, and often they’ll grow out of these food behaviours as soon as they adopt them.
But before that manages to happen, you’re probably becoming very frustrated with meal times! You want something to change, but you’re not quite sure how to make it happen. And as the person who loves them most in the world, you’re also probably a bit worried about your child’s dietary habits.
Should I worry about my child’s fussy eating?
According to official advice from the NHS, your toddler is a fussy eater is nothing to worry about. It’s normal for kids to turn their nose up at certain foods, and absolutely love chowing down on one food over another - they’re little humans with their own preferences, just like us! As long as your child has energy, is active, and is clearly gaining weight normal for their age, their eating habits are just fine.
(Of course, it’s always best to check with a doctor before you write off any serious food worries, just to be sure.)
However, if you’d really like your child to vary in their dietary habits a little more, you don’t have to stay frustrated. You can introduce new foods to them slowly over time, and we’ve got a bit of advice below to make sure they don’t spit it all back out!
To start with, you can check out our guide on sneaking more veggies onto your child’s plate right here!
Make ‘healthy’ snacks the norm
If you want your child to eat more foods, and specific foods that are good for them, make ‘healthy’ snacks the norm around the house. It’s alright for your child to have something sweet and a little bit naughty every now and then, but these should be rare treats that always follow on from a healthy snack or meal beforehand.
Try to remove sweets and biscuits and cakes from out of easy reach, and put fruits and nuts and grain bars around instead. Make these snacks bite-size and easy to eat, so your child doesn’t turn their nose up at the size or texture of the foods either.
Even making small, yummy smoothies with Blueberries, or Raspberries and Blackberries can work a treat, and they’re incredibly easy to make if you keep these ingredients diced, frozen and ready to go!
Add plenty of flavours
Thanks to their difference in taste buds, your child experiences the flavour palette in a much more sensitive way than you do. We all know kids tend to have a bit of a sweet tooth, and you can blame that fact on the greater amount of sweet receptors they have compared to us!
However, this also means children are generally much more sensitive to ‘yucky’ flavours as well, specifically things that taste bitter. It’s why a baby’s face screws up so dramatically when they try a citrus fruit for the first time, and it’s probably one of the main reasons why your child hates having to eat their broccoli!
And that means it’s important to try and mask these bitter flavours as much as possible. Cooking with spices, for example, is a great way to help your child learn to love the taste of the greens on their plate. Even just with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and then roasting broccoli in the oven instead of boiling it, can work wonders on your child’s perception of their veggies.
Set an example!
If the kids have to eat carrot sticks and grapes whenever they want a snack, but the ice cream in the freezer is steadily wearing down thanks to your late-night TV marathons, your little one might start to suspect something… And if they catch you out in a lie about the foods they have to eat, they’re going to continue turning their noses up at the different food you’re trying to get them to eat.
So, following on from the point about making ‘healthy’ snacks the norm for your kids, make sure you join in too. Kids learn the most from copying those around them, and as their parents, you set the most important example of all!
Eat these foods alongside your child, and be sure to talk about just how much you enjoy the tastes in front of them. Kids tend to have taste expectations about the foods in front of them, and if you like what you’re eating, they’re much more likely to as well.