Are you dealing with dinner time challenges? Here are our tops tips for picky eaters
Do you find meal times with your child can be tricky? If so, you’re not alone. A recent survey by BabyCentre found that 96% of mums find at least one aspect of feeding their child stressful.
Meal-time challenges are something which we’re sure many of our readers will sympathise with. There’s a lot to keep on top of from a very early age when it comes to kids and food, from how and when you wean, through to the importance of making sure your growing child eats well and has a healthy digestive system.
The challenges of healthy eating for children
Like adults, children need to eat a wide variety of foods to stay healthy. As adults we all know about the importance of healthy eating for children, and as parents we want them to eat a varied, healthy diet. 90% of mums surveyed agreed on the importance of raising an adventurous eater.
However, there are many things that can get in the way of a clean plate. Children’s taste can vary wildly, often from day-to-day (have you ever served up their favourite meal they happily munched the day before, only to have it refused?).
45% of mums surveyed said their biggest challenge is navigating the food minefield of picky eaters and 55% of mums struggle with providing a varied diet to their children.
We know it can be hard when it seems like your children turn their nose up at whatever you put on the table, and somewhat frustrating when you’re busy - 46% of mums surveyed said they find it tough to find the time to prepare healthy meals.
Tips for dealing with picky eaters:
If you’re dealing with these types of dinner-time challenges, we’d recommend these tips for helping to encourage your children to love food:
- Encourage them to help prepare the meals. Decide on a healthy recipe together, take them shopping with you and get them involved in preparing it (under your 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; it’s worth a try.
- Try to eat regular, healthy meals together as a family. If this is tricky in the week, try and eat together at weekends. And try not to make a fuss at mealtimes, as hard as it may be. This may cause your child to rebel even more and cause tension at the dinner table.
- 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.
- 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 natural yogurt.
- Be creative when planning your meals. While you may be tempted to only make the things they will eat, 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. If you have something different on your plate, offer them a bite.
- 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.
- 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. And they might surprise you - in time, your child may agree to give them a go.
Do you have any tips for dealing with picky eaters?
Stats taken from BabyCentre report Top Trends in Family Food and Nutrition 2019