By Nicole Fuge, MD® Managing Editor
Tired of fighting with your kids at dinnertime? Forcing them to finish their meal before they can leave the table? Or maybe you’ve already caved and cater for the fussiness by making two different meals – one for the family and one for your mini bae. Either way, it’s exhausting.
Good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. Dr Jennifer Cohen of UNSW Medicine says whilst fussy eating is part of normal childhood development, there are some things you can do to prevent it overtaking your life and help your mealtimes become less stressful. Hallelujah!
1 // Pureed food is optional
Try introducing textured and finger foods to children when they start eating solids. For example, bite-size pieces of soft fruit and vegetables. Or, you can totes skip pureed food altogether – omitting or quickly moving on from it will help a child’s development.
2 // Don’t mask flavours
A handy hack is to introduce your little one to a good variety of flavours and don’t combine flavours. So avoid making a savoury, spicy or aromatic food more appealing to them by adding sweetness, because then they will end up preferring sweet flavours. So, give them similar flavours to the rest of the family.
3 // Let it go
Don’t force them to eat food they reject because negative reinforcement and “just take one more bite” messaging about food can lead to food aversion. The same tip applies to describing food as “healthy/unhealthy” or “good/bad” and using food as a reward. For example, saying: “if you eat your vegetables you can have dessert” demonises one food while it puts another food on a pedestal. Placing too much value in food can be problematic. All food is equal!
4 // Let them try new things
Regularly introduce your child to new foods, flavours and textures, even if they refuse to eat their portion, because they might eventually decide to try those new foods and love it. Yasss!
5 // Intervene early
Never assume your child will grow out of fussy eating. If it’s clearly a problem as soon as they start solid foods, chat to a professional to assess for sensory or swallowing issues.