If you are worried about your child receiving adequate nutrients from their diet, you are not alone! Many parents find mealtimes difficult, especially when their children are fussy eaters. From determining what to feed your child to actually getting your child to eat what you have given them, can be quite an exhausting process!
There are several small, easy actions that you can take to help mealtimes run more smoothly.
- Try to eat regular healthy meals together as a family.
- Don't make a fuss at mealtimes! This may cause your child to rebel even more and cause tension at the dinner table.
- Encourage your child to help prepare the meals. Take them shopping and teach them to choose nutritious foods that they want to eat. Then decide on a recipe together and get your child involved in preparing it (under your strict supervision of course!). Having spent the time and made the effort to make the food, it may increase the likelihood of them wanting to eat it.
- You are the primary role model to your child. Make sure that you set a good example to them with your own eating habits. If you eat processed ready meals that are high in fat and salt, chances are, that your children will too.
- If your child feels hungry in between meals, give them nutritious snacks such as fruit, oatcakes, vegetable sticks with humus or a small pot of yogurt.
- Listen to your child when they tell you that they don't like a particular type of food. It may just be that they don't like the way it has been cooked in that particular dish or the way it has been presented. Sometimes, all it takes is presenting the dish in a fun way, like making a face out of the vegetables on their plate or even spelling out their name.
- Be creative when planning your meals. Having the same dish regularly can be boring. For example, if you are making pasta with sauce, add some chopped vegetables to the sauce when cooking to give it a different flavour and texture. It's also a good way of getting your child to eat more vegetables without it being too obvious.
- Give your child small portions of food to begin with. If they are presented with a mountain of food on their plate at the beginning of the meal, this may put them off eating it.
- Don't offer alternative foods as rewards, or say things like "no pudding until you've eaten all those vegetables". This may have a negative impact on your child eating vegetables in the future! By doing this you will also be reinforcing the idea that the pudding is more desirable than the vegetables.
- Are you familiar with the notion that sometimes food tastes better when it's from someone else's plate? Well children sometimes think like that too! If you have something different on your plate, offer a small bite to your child to try.
- Only offer one new food at a time and serve the new food with familiar ones. Make sure though that your child tries a new food a number of times as it can take a few attempts before they realise they like it.
- Food fads are often short-lived. Offer the rejected foods every few weeks but don't force your child to have it. In time, your child may agree to give them a go!
- Encourage your child to have a look at the nutrient guide so they can see why different types of foods are good for them.