Have a fussy eater at the table? Do mealtimes often turn into tantrums? Try these tips and your tot will be enjoying her meals in no time.
WORDS TEO KUAN YEE
For toddlers, eating solid foods is still a novel experience – he is trying out the various textures, colours, and tastes of new food, hence his unpredictability or finicky tendencies, as compared to his likes or dislikes with other things which are more consistent.
As your little one is growing up, he is also learning to make food choices and becoming more independent. Just take heart that meal times do not always go the way you want it – he may not be able to polish up everything on his plate, for one thing. So, if you have a fussy eater, you need to be patient, detach yourself from the situation, and not get swept into a battle of wills if he is not keen to eat certain foods, no matter how much effort you may have invested into planning and preparing the meal.
Even though it may be frustrating when a child turns down the food, keep calm and continue to try as limiting his food options will only alleviate their fussiness, which deprives them of the nutrients for growth and development.
Child development experts have found that repeated food tastings
(average of 15 times) will gradually result in acceptance of a
new food – lots of gentle encouragement will help.
Take this as a golden window of opportunity to expose your child to new foods. Offer a variety of healthy foods often to provide him with the opportunity to taste the food when he is ready – if not at lunch, then during an afternoon snack. Give a small amount and praise your child for eating – even if he only consumes a tiny portion.
Make it fun
You could try playing a game – blindfold your child before introducing a new food and ask him to guess what it is, according to Annabel Karmel who also advises parents to be upfront about fruit and vegetables by telling them where they come from and why they are good for health. Providing your child with facts make them more interested in what they are eating. One way is to offer the new item as a starter – in a little teacup or saucer so that your child could try that, in addition to their main meal.
Involve your child
Children enjoy watching their mother prepare meals in the kitchen and may be keen to help – get them involved in simple and safe tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs as a means of stimulating their appetite. Place some healthy snacks such as low-sugar biscuits or gluten-free flakes on a low shelf within their easy reach to curb sudden hunger pangs that your little ones need to quell fast.
One way to get junior to try vegetables is to prepare foods with smashed vegetables, for instance in tomatoes for pasta sauce, mashed potatoes or cooked baby carrots. If your baby is teething, thinly slice vegetables such as cucumber and carrot into sticks to make it easier for their little fingers to pick up and gnaw on.
Eat your meals together as a family if possible. As your child’s role model, practise what you preach by including more fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Get junior to see what he is eating and not be distracted
by the TV or an electronic device so that he is aware of food
options and is more aware of what he is eating.
When planning your meal, try to include food from the four main categories such as milk and dairy products, protein, carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables. Even if it is your child’s usual favourites from each group, persevere – slowly introduce other foods or the foods your child did not like earlier and try them again.
No matter how frustrated you feel, you should not show your negative emotions. Instead, shower them with loads of praise if they try something new or eat well. Reward your child with stickers to encourage your child to try new foods and get him a prize, say a small toy, when he has collected sufficient stickers, to motivate him to continue.
Don’t force it
If your child rejects the food, don’t force them to eat it – just take the food away and stay calm even if it’s very frustrating. He is probably not hungry. It is common for toddlers to vary their eating habits from day to day due to your toddler’s nutrition requirements. While you may be anxious to feed junior his daily dose of essential nutrients, the fact is that he is not growing as much now as he was in his first year, so he is less interested in food and not eating as much.
Don’t over snack
Structure your child’s eating routine so that he has three regular meals a day and two healthy snacks in between meals. For snacks, limit him to a milk drink and some fruit slices or a small cracker with a slice of cheese. Avoid scheduling the meal until your child is too hungry or too tired to eat.
Don’t overload on salt
Although it may be tempting to add more salt to enhance the flavours, it will be too much sodium for the little one. It is more important to shop for fresh quality ingredients to let your child taste the natural flavour of the food.