Infant and Children | April 16, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
If your child is refusing certain foods, you are not alone! Picking eating is a relatively common problem during childhood ranging from 8% to 50% of children. If your child is a fussy eater they may only eat a limited amount of food (particularly vegetables), be unwilling to try new foods, and have strong food preferences often leading to parents having to provide different meals from the rest of the family. This can result in considerable parental anxiety, meal time battles and possible nutritional deficiencies for the child. Various strategies can help your child accept a wider range of foods and establish healthier eating patterns.
The younger you start offering a wide-variety of healthy foods the more likely your child is to broaden their food appreciation. Even delaying lumpy foods until the age of 10 months, compared to 6 months, results in a higher likelihood of your child being a fussy eater later on. However, even if your child is well past this stage it’s never too late to implement changes and here are some further recommendations.
It’s always important to have on offer a variety of different foods, while still offering nutritious foods you know they will eat. The trick is to be patient—it may take up to a dozen times before your child will accept a new food.
Don’t push it—be encouraging and let it happen naturally. If they refuse a food or meal, don’t cave in and give them what they want. This will teach them to be a fussy eater.
If you feel they haven’t had enough, you could offer them a healthy snack a bit later.
Children learn behaviours from their parents. Research indicates, that if you are a fussy eater, your child is likely to be a fussy eater too.
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit. However, if you restrict yourself to a narrow range of foods, your child may copy this behaviour. It might also be that you are offering limited foods that you like, and they dislike—meaning that your child’s tastes are different to yours.
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The appetite of a child varies significantly from an adult—remember they only have small stomach’s. They may go through stages where they eat you out of house and home or they barely touch a meal. This is completely normal! Factors that can impact appetite include illness, tiredness and emotional upsets. Compare what they have eaten in a week, rather than focusing on what they have consumed in a day. Children are very clever at modulating their own appetite depending on their body’s needs.
Children respond well to routine and eating meals as a family at set times can help instil healthy eating behaviours. Try and stay relaxed, use this as a time for family communication and fun. Avoid eating dinner too late as your child may be too tired and emotional.
Here are some healthy suggestions of what your child can eat for main meals and snacks. Get them involved in the food production process by growing your own vegetables, selecting food at the supermarket and helping in the kitchen.
If your child is refusing main meals it may mean that they are filling up on too many snacks throughout the day. If this is the case, you may find limiting their snack intake helpful. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids—ideally just water but this can include small amounts of milk and freshly squeezed juices. Adopt the principles of the healthy eating pyramid by offering foods from each food group such as healthy fats/oils, dairy, protein, grains, nuts and seeds, lentils, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Avoid focussing on just one food group or just one type of grain to promote a wide variety of nutrition and food likes.
Typically desert is something sugary and unhealthy. While it’s ok to offer treats on occasion it is not necessary for children to have foods such as chocolate or ice-cream every day. If you are trying to get your child to eat dinner, bribery with a sweet treat isn’t a good method. It sends the message that desert is the best food which might only increase your child’s desire for sweet foods. If you would like to offer a small snack after dinner this could include fresh fruit, home-made date and nut balls or natural yoghurt.
If you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, weight and growth you can get in contact with your doctor or paediatrician for further advice. Fussy eating might be a sign of an underlying medical condition and if there are other accompanying symptoms you should let your doctor know.
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