I am regularly asked by exasperated mamas for tips to deal with fussy eaters. I've written about this topic before but it is time to re-visit it. I don't have all the answers (sorry about that!) My boys aged 7 and 3 don't eat every variety of fruit and vegetable I put in front of them but they don't complain and they are willing to try everything, this is half the battle in my opinion.
Here are my latest thoughts on dealing with fussy eaters:
- for starters I don't like the term fussy eater. It is a label, a bit like telling a child they are clumsy if we refer to our child as a fussy eater we are affirming that. Being mindful of the words we choose can make a big difference.
- keep a well-stocked wholefood pantry and fridge minus processed snacks that will sabotage your greatest efforts to get your children to eat well. If children are going to snack, which most like to do, then nutrient dense snacks are important opportunities for getting fruit and veg into them, such as banana or berry smoothie, mashed avocado dip, carrot hummous, if your child likes soup that makes an excellent snack.
- a solid set of loving boundaries when it comes to food and eating - sit down to eat, no snacking before dinner, turn off all screens when eating, zero tolerance on complaining and whining when food is presented explain with love that you understand your child may not like X food but the meal was prepared with love and out of respect to the food and to the person who made it don't screw your face up or you will have to leave the table.
- a positive attitude - we have a children's picture book titled Jasper McFlee Will Not Eat His Tea written by Lee Fox, it is one of our favorites about a boy named Jasper who as the title suggests will not eat his tea, or any other meal for that matter. Jasper ends up at the doctors who tells him "you don't have to like food you just have to try it". Jasper works on trying all kinds of foods and by the end of the book he is eating up all his meals. I know it can get tedious but remaining positive and encouraging is important "good on you for trying it perhaps next time you will like it more."
- remember - this too shall pass. Unless you are an adult fussy eater :) your child will grow out of this. Young children love hearing stories about their parents childhood, talk to them at mealtimes about foods that you loved when you were a child and also foods that you were resistant to but then tried and found out you liked them and now are some of your favorites - for me one of those foods is mangos!
The Wellness Mama has written an excellent, lengthy and detailed post on this topic. I particularly love her 'one bite' approach where she serves one bite of each dinner item (one bite of green bean, one bite of sweet potato and one bite of chicken) once the bites are all eaten more food can be served. Genius! This encourages tasting which is important for developing the sense of taste and developing an attitude of openness to trying new things which is key along with having a healthy appetite.
Excellent ideas also to be found on the Better Health Channel.
Some hard questions to ask yourself...
Am I a fussy eater?
Do I give my child only the foods I know he/she will eat because I don't want to deal with their emotional responses?
Do I keep buying nutritionally empty foods because "they are the only foods my child will eat"?
Could I stop buying those foods and explain to my child that those foods are made in a factory and don't help build a strong and healthy body and brain?
Does the thought of my child going hungry feel so mean that I give them what they want to eat?
Could we start eating as a family and turn off screens at least a few meals a week?
How could I involve my children more in meal preparation?
Share your thoughts and experiences. We are all in this one together. Leave a comment, your tip might just make another mamas life that bit easier or your experience might help them to see they are not alone with this challenge.