How To Raise An Adventurous Eater
Most toddlers go through a stage of fussy eating. Mary Kate Hickey finds out how to encourage your little one to try new foods and tastes.
We all know how difficult it can be to get toddlers to eat a varied diet, and it is normal for your child to suddenly decide she'll only eat a small number of different foods. But this can be a huge cause of stress, especially when you end up having to throw away good food that she simply refuses to eat.
“Faddy eating is now recognised as a normal part of a child's development, and most children at some point will be fussy. In some cases, it is considered a declaration of independence, or it can be a demand for attention. Whatever the cause, one thing is for sure it can be a very worrying and upsetting time for parents,” says dietitian Aveen Bannon.
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Rest assured however, that this is typically a phase that toddlers go through, and most will grow out of it by the time they reach school age. It is also important to note that children’s appetites do tend to vary from time to time, so try not to fret too much about changes in her eating habits. In the meantime, here are a few tips that you can try to help you cope with feeding your little fussy eater.
Get your child involved with the weekly shop and ask her to help you find things you need. It also could be a good idea to allow her to pick her own healthy snacks, as she may be more likely to eat them this way.
At dinnertime, have her help with setting the table if she’s old enough, or even with some simple cooking, baking and food preparation. Allowing her to see the foods she will be eating and helping to make them can promote healthier eating habits.
Healthy Snack Options
“For many children, particularly the faddy eater, snacking during the day can be an important part of normal eating. In fact, snacks can account for at least a third of kids energy needs, so always try to offer nutrient rich choices,” says Aveen.
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Allow her to make her own decision for healthy snacks by offering her three or four options to choose from. By letting her choose which she would prefer, she is more likely to enjoy eating it. When she gets used to eating these healthy snacks, start to introduce new foods, snacks, fruits and veggies, gently easing her into the idea of trying new things.
Promote healthy eating habits in your little one, by offering incentives for when she eats her fruits and vegetables, or for when she tries a new food item. Sticker charts or reward charts work great for this kind of thing, as you can keep track of her progress daily, and at the end of the week.
If she has filled the row with stickers, you can offer a treat to reward her and show that you are proud of her and appreciate her.
“Keep a list of the foods your child will eat and post it on the fridge in the kitchen. With every bit of progress, add it to the list. Keep offering new foods but do not assume that if something is refused today that it will be refused forever,” suggests Aveen Bannon.
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Children may need to be exposed to a food between eight and 10 times before they’ll develop a taste for it. So if she refuses something the first time, don’t lose hope just try again, she most likely won’t refuse it forever.
Hide Fruits And Vegetables
Disguising fruits and vegetables by blending them into sauces, soups and smoothies is an age-old way of making sure your little one is getting enough good nutrients in her diet. It also can be a great way of getting her used to the taste, without her seeing them and refusing to eat them.
“Children often prefer raw fruit and vegetables as they are sweeter, but if they don’t enjoy raw fruit, make your own milkshakes, smoothies or smoothie ice pops by blending puréed fruit with milk or yoghurt,” suggests Aveen. “As they begin to eat the dishes with fruit and vegetables added you can start to increase the size of the lumps,” adds Aveen.
Set A Good Example
Your child will learn her eating habits from you, so set a good example for her. Tell her about how much you're enjoying the food you're eating; if you're enthusiastic she might be more willing to try them. Also try and make meal times consistent, toddlers thrive on routine and enjoy knowing what to expect. Sit down and eat along with your toddler and encourage her to eat the same as the rest of the family.
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“Remember children learn by example, eat meals together and ensure that you are eating a balanced healthy diet too. Ensure that the television is turned off at mealtimes so that there are no distractions,” advises Aveen.
“Try to be patient and encourage your child with lots of smiles and praise, there will always be good and bad days, but one of the most important things is that mealtimes do not become a war zone and to try and keep your cool! Simply remove uneaten food perhaps offering it an hour later, but do not let them have snacks an hour later,” Aveen suggests.
Tell her you are happy with her when she eats well, she will react well to the praise and hopefully encourage continuing the healthy eating habit. However don’t make too much of a fuss, if you give her too much attention at meal times, it could go the opposite way and encourage her to refuse foods simply for the attention.
If you are concerned about your child’s diet please contact your GP or a dietitian for help. For more information, check out indi.ie and more information.