What to do when your child is a fussy eater
Whether your children are wasting food, indulging in sweets or simply refusing to eat, here’s some advice to help you deal with those fussy little eaters!
As many parents know, young children can be picky eaters. While children oftentimes grow out of these tendencies, fussy eating habits that continue may prevent them growing well. Parents can take action and become involved by following a few simple suggestions.
What is your child really eating?
Write down your child’s food and beverage intake for two to three days and then analyze the results. Pay attention to the different food groups consumed, frequency of meals and how much your child eats at each sitting.
Take notes of your child’s liquid intake; many children fill up on drinks, leaving no room for food. Milk might be the culprit; it’s important for children to drink milk, but they only need about a pint a day after the age of one.
What foods does your child like to eat?
Make a list of everything your child will eat; a healthy diet needs a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Once armed with this list, it is easier to assess what types of food your child is lacking in their diet. The list will also help you create meals your child will enjoy eating!
Increasing a child’s menu
If your child only eats certain food items, they may not be getting a balanced diet. To remedy this, continue to offer their favorite foods, but include something new at each mealtime. Offer your child praise when they try different food and, if they don’t like it or won’t taste it, try a new way of adding the item to the diet.
Parents often worry that snacking between meals is ruining their child’s appetite. This may be the case if a child is eating starchy or sugary foods like sweets and cookies close to mealtimes, but most young children need a few snacks to maintain adequate energy levels. Offer only nutritious snacks like fruit, raw vegetables and toast. If a child lacks iron, offer them baked beans, dried apricots, eggs or breakfast cereal. Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, so fruit juice with their snacks is a good idea.
Vitamin supplements are helpful if a child is lacking essential nutrients. They do not, however, substitute for a balanced diet, so continue to strive towards healthy eating habits.
Take it slow
It may take some time to change your child’s eating habits. Patience is essential! Do not become angry if your child won’t eat what you give them. Also, do not offer alternatives – just try again at the next mealtime. Give praise for good eating and don’t force children to eat if they don’t want to. Children like to feel they have a choice in enjoying healthy food, giving your child that option could result in healthier eating habits! Just make sure you don’t succumb to their demands for unhealthy foods either.
Rewards and incentives
Avoid using treats like candies or biscuits as bribes or rewards for good behavior. Non-food treats like a special afternoon out or a visit to the toy store work best.
If your child’s eating habits do not improve, it is advisable to visit your family GP or pediatrician. They will check your child’s weight and general health, offer nutritional advice and, if necessary, refer you to more expert help.