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Taking Care of Your Fussy Eating Toddlers

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What’s the most disheartening reaction to the meal you’ve spent ages preparing? Your child not giving even one look to it. And when the meal refusals happen repeatedly, a lot of desperate parents fall into the trap of only serving food they know their child will eat – which is most likely to feature unhealthy kiddie-favourites like pizza, fries, and burgers.

However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way and there is a vast scope for improvement.

While some studies say that if a standoff over vegetables at dinner is a daily struggle with your child, there is some relief for the parents as the fussy toddler is still likely to grow up to be of normal weight and height. The point to be noted as a general rule, these toddlers have strong preferences for particular foods and are reluctant to try unfamiliar foods. Sometimes your fussy toddler would even insist on having their food presented in a particular way and can be very slow about eating it.

The most common effect of picky eating or fussy eating is a source of anxiety and stress for many parents. The consistent battles at mealtimes, combined with worry about whether the child is getting the right nutrients to grow and develop normally, can be exhausting and disruptive to family life and relationships.

Here are a few tips to be considered important if your child is a fussy eater:-

  • Respect your child’s eating pattern and routine. There could be times they are not hungry. You can choose to serve smaller portions and feed them later during the day.
  • Make sure you follow a uniform routine. Let the child develop the habit of being fed at a specific time of the day. This helps them recognize a certain mealtime.
  • Introduce food like it’s fun. Remember how your parents made every attempt to befriend you with green vegetables as if they were the best things in the world? Now, it’s your time to do exactly that and trust us, the more interesting you can make the food, the better your child will find it.
  • What you eat, your child can eat it too. If your toddler doesn’t appreciate their meal, try feeding them what you or the rest of the family is eating. But of course, in toddler-sized portions.
  • Be real in your expectations. We are sure you have read many books on “perfect parenting” and while it’ll be great if your child agrees to be as well-behaved and perfect as the books suggest, it’s alright if they are not. Every child follows their own manner of growing up and chooses their “healthy food” accordingly. Support them as much as you can.

Even though this behavior is common in preschool children, they tend to grow out of it in the early school years, perhaps as they mix with their peers and develop greater autonomy.

The main objective of getting your kids to eat anything is to turn the idea of normal food on its head: To gradually introduce variety and to keep that going day after day, week after week until the experience of discovering new flavours, textures, smells, shapes and colours on the plate is the new normal.

You can gradually start to encourage variety at mealtimes by introducing small elements of unfamiliar colour, flavour or texture to trusted family favourites.

And when the time is right, change them just enough to begin to break some early assumptions about what food should be like, and just enough to get all children excited about the journey ahead.

In the education phase, parents can try helping children grow their own herbs to help illustrate where food comes from, then get them involved in cooking a meal using those herbs.

Or even accept the challenge to build a plate based on the main food groups.

Parents should think about the recipes they are well aware of, and think creatively about how they can tweak them to make them fun with colour, patterns, shapes and even by stacking or layering food. 

Help equip your kids with the skills and desire to make healthy choices for a lifetime. Get in touch with our team of expert child specialists at the Department of Neonatology & Paediatrics.

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