The child in the picture above is my “former fussy eater”. Man is it tough feeding children who don’t eat anything other than their 4 staple meals. I have always fed my kids fresh, whole food, but they haven’t always been open to it. Now I am going through it with my 6 year old fussy son. Mind you that kid ate everything until about 6 months ago. It’s like WTF? My daughter on the other hand was fussy as a baby until she was about 6. So all you parents who are struggling with a fussy eater, I HEAR YOU AND I FEEL YOU. I don’t know many houses who don’t have at least one fussy person.
Working in preschools as an educator and at times as a cook, I was dealing with sometimes 30 fussy eaters. It’s a tough gig. What I found the hardest to understand was parents who didn’t even offer their children different or healthy foods. It can take 10 to 20 tastes of a certain food before the taste buds accept it and before we like it. So when they say they don’t like something, it’s not the end of that food. It’s all about persistence.
Although children’s taste buds can change as they grow, we need to set good habits early. We don’t want to set them up for an adult life of bad choices and possible obesity. Teenage years are when a child’s activity levels start to slow down and there are so many changes within the body. If we don’t teach them to nourish their bodies we see things like hormone imbalance, mood swings (yes they have them anyway but the severity can be worse), acne, digestive issues, weight gain, headaches and skin conditions. And yes as a teenager they will probably head off to fast food with their mates, but what chance do they have if that’s all they have ever known?
What they eat is pretty much the only thing young children can control. We control when they eat, sleep, go to school, what they wear and what they do. We can’t get into a battle of wills with them like we really want to at times. It’s stressful enough as it is for everyone at the table.
So how did I overcome this with my daughter and some of the children in my care?
- Eat at the table with the whole family. You need to set a good example and be able to monitor whats happening.
- Be a good role model by eating healthy and trying new foods yourself.
- Never stop putting new food in front of your child. Don’t be afraid to give a toddler a curry or food full of flavour. There are kids all over the world eating random and spicy foods.
- If they turn their nose up at certain foods, keep putting it on their plate. You never know when they might try it. Try your luck.
- NEVER YELL OR BE AGGRESSIVE. No punishments. This is not going to make them try the food. It’s upsetting for everyone. We need a good environment and attitude around food. Creating stress creates resistance.
- Never offer something else. Your child will not starve and you are not hurting your child if you don’t give them a sandwich after they refuse their meal. All you are doing is creating a bad habit. Why would they eat the meal you prepared if they know they are going to get what they want after dinner? If they don’t eat, put their meal in the fridge and when they come to you later and they say they are hungry, offer them their dinner. After a few days they will get it. Some kids may take longer to get it, but they will get it.
- Don’t make the task too big. Don’t sit them down and tell them they have to eat ALL of the food on their plate. Start with 3 mouthfuls. You never know, they may try it and like it and eat all of it. This happens with my kids all the time.
- Don’t stand over them forcing food in their mouth. It’s not going to make them want to eat the food. It will actually more than likely make them heave and turn them off that foods forever.
- Make foods with hidden veggies like pasta with my TOMATO VEGETABLE SAUCE and some cheese on top or my MACARONI AND CHEESE
- Have 2 or 3 meals a week that they love and the other days have food that everyone can eat and enjoy. Try and new meal for the whole family at least once a week.
- Encourage the children to cook with you sometimes. My kids were younger than 2 when they began cooking with me. We are all time poor, but one meal a week of them helping is creating good habits for a lifetime. Yep it will be messy and slow but it can be so fun too. If they see what goes into their food and they have played a part in the preparation, it can create feelings of achievement and maybe they will eat it.
- Allow each member of the family to choose a meal out of a recipe book or of course from my blog.
- Have a tasting plate or bowl in the middle of the table once a week with a few new foods in it. Each person has to try one of the foods on the plate.
- Smother yourself and your child in calming essential oils before dinner to keep your cool PURE THERAPEUTIC GRADE ESSENTIAL OILS LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL WILD ORANGE ESSENTIAL OIL
- Read books to your children that have other kids eating healthy meals.
- Speak about fruit and vegetables with your kids. This is an eggplant, tomato, avocado etc. I used to do this at preschool with the kids and so many didn’t even know what a potato was, but they knew what a chip was.
- Talk about “sometimes foods”. Foods that are ok to eat sometimes and why we eat them sometimes. When I take my son to the supermarket he will point at foods and say “thats a sometimes food Mummy”.
- Let babies play with their food. Babies learn by touch and putting things in their mouth. There is no table manners for young ones.
- Let them have a drink before dinner and then don’t give them one until they have eaten some of their food. Otherwise they keep drinking and filling up on that instead of food.
- Have a rewards chart. If they eat some of their dinner they get a sticker. At the end of the week get them a small prize if they get 5/7 days or something to that effect. Something achievable. At the end of the month if they have done well get them “the grand prize”. Don’t be too harsh. Any win is a win.
- Don’t reward them after every meal with lollies. Kinda defeating the purpose of the healthy eating.
- To get some vegetables into them you can add them to a fresh juice or smoothie with some fruit.
- Don’t give up. I know you’re going to really want to, believe me I have been there.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing the best job you can.
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