If you consider your child to be a fussy eater, mealtimes can be frustrating and feel like a constant battle. You may also be concerned that your child is not eating enough or getting the right nutrients.
I want to reassure you that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to refuse new foods or to even refuse foods they have previously loved. This may happen if they have had a negative experience associated with the food, if the food is presented in a different way to normal or maybe they just have decided that they no longer like the food.
My advice is not to worry about what they eat in one meal, or one day but to look at what they have eaten across the whole week.
If your child is active, happy and gaining weight you do not need to worry. You may wish they had a more varied diet but this may take some time and patience. Once children start nursery or school they usually pick up positive behaviours from their peers and this may be when they start to expand the variation in their diet. As long as your child eats some food from the 4 main food groups (fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; dairy or dairy alternatives; and beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins) you can stress less.
Keep trying to introduce new foods slowly, for example, one new food a week and present the new food with foods that your child does like. Children’s tastes change, along with their favourite toy, TV show or parent! One day they may love something and a week later they may hate it. This is normal and you have not failed as a parent when this happens.
A dietitians top five tips for fussy eaters
- A fun way to incorporate new foods could be keeping a colour chart or picture chart on the fridge that your child can tick off each time she has a new vegetable or to count how many times in a week she has tried that new food.
- Give your child the same food as the rest of the family and try to eat together as a family without any distractions (ie no TV/ phones). Create a positive calm atmosphere around meals whereas a family you can discuss your day.
- If your child rejects the food, don’t force them to eat it. Just take the food away without saying anything. This can be frustrating but try to stay calm during this scenario. Re – try the food at a later date. Try foods in different ways, for example, if your child does not like raw carrots, try them boiled, mashed, or in stir – fry next time.
- Space meals and naps equally throughout the day so as your child is not tired or over hungry at main meals.
- Do not use food as a reward and try to monitor the language you use around different foods. Try to avoid calling foods “bad” or “naughty” or “ good” and instead talk about the different colours in the foods and the textures. Reward children with your time to play, or trips to the park or their favourite TV show.