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Fussy Eating

As a parent, it’s natural to worry if your child isn’t eating well. But if this is something you’re struggling with, you’re not alone.

There isn’t one strategy that will work with all children – some approaches will be more useful to some families than others, and it’s about finding what works for yours. Here are some top tips for you to consider trying:

Creating Relaxed Mealtimes

It is important to make mealtimes as relaxed as possible, so your child associates mealtimes with pleasure rather than stress.

Eat together

Where possibly try and ensure that you sit down together for mealtimes, this could either be around a table or on a blanket on the floor. Children will benefit from watching other family members eat and enjoy a wide range of food.

Don’t rush children

Adults often eat a faster pace than children, so don’t rush them to eat their food quicker. Allow them to take their time, reducing the pressure on them. Try and ensure that everyone stays at the table until everyone has finished, to avoid your child being left on their own.

Avoid too many snacks

Your child’s appetite will be affected if you allow them to eat too many snacks or drinks in between meals. Try and plan for 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner/tea and 2 healthy snacks a day.

Turn off all devices

Try and make mealtimes a sociable time and turn off distractions such as phones, TVs, computers and other devices.

Keep the focus off what your child is (or isn’t) eating

Try and ensure that mealtimes are a relaxed and a sociable time for your family. Take it in turns to answer questions about your day. Keeping a conversation going will help take the focus off trying to get your child to eat.

Involve children in planning mealtimes

Encourage your child to get involved in planning the meal, preparing the food and laying the table. Children will be more enthusiastic about mealtimes and eating if they have been involved in creating it.

Offer some choices at mealtimes

Children will often try and use food as a way if exerting some control, such as – refusing to eat what they are given. Giving them some control over their food choices, may help avoid these battles. An example would be to provide two or three types of vegetable to choose from and let them serve themselves

Try, try and try again

When trying new foods, let your child go at their own pace – just allowing on their plate maybe a big step for some children, they then can progress to touching, smelling and tasting. Allow your child to become familiar with new foods, by offering them it a number of times – this will help your child to get used to its taste and texture. Remember it may take up to 15 times before your child accepts the food!

Start with what they like and make small changes

Take things slowly, don’t make drastic changes to the food your eats. Start with a meal your child does like and consider making one or two changes to make it healthier. Let your child have an element of control, for example if you are introducing new foods – would they like the food on the same plate or in a separate bowl? Even though adults often like to mix their food together or add sauces, often children like to keep their food separate so they know what they are eating.

Don’t pass on your dislikes

Don’t limit the types of food your child is introduced because of your own likes and dislikes. You should still encourage your child to try foods that you don’t like, otherwise they could pick up any bad habits that you may have.

Download the ‘Meal Time’ booklet, which will give you some ideas on how to make the most of meal times as well as getting the kids to have fun with food so they look forward to sitting down and eating properly.

For further information about young children and fussy eating visit Fussy eaters.

Meal time step by step guide to a healthy and active family