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Helping your Fussy Eater

helping a fussy eater

A fussy toddler is a very normal occurrence. Almost all children go through a "fussy food" stage. They're tasting new foods which can be daunting because of colours and textures. It is a part of your childs development.

New research has been done at Duke Universities medical school in the US and they have found that severe fussy eaters are twice as likely to develop mental health problems later in life. They did a study with more than 3000 children aged between two and six.

The good news is that children are likely to get less fussy as they get older. The above study is mainly associated with children who are severely fussy.

Research suggests that the chance of a toddler accepting a new food only increases after we’ve offered it to them more than eight times.

There are ways to help your fussy eater to try new foods. Starting when they're a toddler is the best time. But you can also try these things with an older child.

  • Offer different foods from each of the five good food groups. For example, if your child doesn’t like cheese, she might enjoy yoghurt instead.

  • If your child is fussing about food, ignore it as much as you can. Giving fussy eating lots of attention can sometimes encourage children to keep behaving this way.

  • Have realistic expectations – for example, you can ask that your child tries all the food on the plate, or takes a certain number of mouthfuls.

  • Put a small amount of new food on the plate with familiar food your child already likes – for example, a piece of broccoli alongside some mashed potato.

  • Let your child choose an item to buy from the supermarket – so long as it’s something they’ve never tried before. When they’re old enough, give them a little money to buy a new food

  • Keep offering a particular food. Your child will probably try it and eventually like it – but she might have to see a food on the plate 10-15 times before she even tries a taste.

  • When possible, look for opportunities for your child to share meals and snacks with other children – he might be more willing to try a food if other children are tucking in.

  • Serve your child the same meal the family is eating but in a portion size your child will eat. If your child doesn’t eat it, say something like, ‘Try it, it’s yummy’. If she still doesn’t want it, calmly say, ‘OK, we’ll try it another time when you’re hungry’.

  • Try not to keep junk food around the house. That way, when your child does eventually feel hungry, there will only be healthy snacks available. If you want to keep some snacks, try using a Snack Jar to limit intake of these around mealtimes.

  • Make healthy foods fun – for example, cut sandwiches into interesting shapes, or let your child help prepare a salad or whisk eggs for an omelette.

  • Make mealtimes a happy, social occasion. Try not to worry about spilled drinks or food on the floor. Instead praise your child for trying new food or eating healthy, familiar food.

  • Encourage your child to touch, smell or take a lick of the new food, then praise him for having a go. Then encourage him to take a bite. Praise your child for trying it.

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