I have been asked this week, by a parent, to write a blog on how to cope with fussy eaters. As a fellow parent of a nearly two year old fussy eater, I can totally empathise with how frustrating (and even worrying) this can be, especially when it has seemingly come out of the blue!
There are some children who appear to be fussy right in the early days however most fussy eaters start to emerge in their 2nd year and it can come as quite a shock to us parents, especially as they may start to reject certain foods that they had always enjoyed such as yoghurt or cheese.
The good news is that as challenging and frustrating as this stage can be, it is usually just a phase and it will resolve itself in time. As long as your child maintains a healthy weight and appears to be healthy in themselves, there is little need to worry. If you are concerned about their weight or general well being, I would advise that you contact your health visitor( or come an see me at the nursery) or see your GP.
Managing fussy eaters
Obviously you can’t force your little fussy eater to eat what’s in front of them if they really don’t want to eat it but here are a few tips on how to encourage them to eat.
*Have set mealtimes. Children like routine and having a set mealtime each day may encourage positive behaviour at the mealtime. It is also advisable to not to have the tv on so they can concentrate on eating. Also limit the mealtime, most toddlers will eat what they want within 30 minutes of a meal time and so it will be pointless waiting for an hour to see if they will eat their dinner.
* Give small portions. There has been much research to suggest that many of us are giving our children portions that are too big. I think this may have to do with a parents instinct of making sure that there children have enough food however research has shown that it can cause your child to be overwhelmed by the portion size and this may in turn prevent them from eating it.
*Whenever time permits, try and eat as a family all together. Your child will be learning from parents and siblings as children copy behaviour. It also allows you to give him lots of positive praise when he is eating!
*Try not to offer alternatives to the meal. This is tricky because I think as parents we get terrified that if our toddlers don’t eat what’s in front of them, they are going to starve! Obviously this isn’t the case but we worry and as a result may offer something else that we know will be an instant hit with them! What you could do is make sure you give them something they like in the meal to begin with alongside something that he maybe hasn’t tried or is as keen on.
*If you are worried about your child lacking in essential nutrients, I would advise that you sneak lots of vegetables into the food that he does like. For example, if he likes spaghetti bolognaise, you could add a whole array of vegetables in this dish, probably completely unnoticed! You could also try giving them a fruit or yogurt smoothie.
*Have a think about what they are eating/drinking during the day. Are they drinking too much milk or is their milk time too close to meal times? Are they having a snack or is it too close to meal times? Often, you may be able to adjust your toddler’s food timetable so other things they are eating or drinking won’t interfere with their main meals
If you are still worried, please feel free to come and chat with me. I am here alternative Fridays and will next be in on Friday the 10th of February.
My name is Julia Headland and I am a Registered General Nurse and a Registered Health Visitor. I am present during the day every second Friday at St Albans Nursery and Montessori Pre-School. I’m available to provide free advice and guidance on children’s health and developmental issues. The consultations are confidential and free of charge. You can see me either by making an appointment or on the off-chance when dropping off or collecting your child from the nursery. If it is difficult to get time to see me in the nursery, we could also have a telephone consultation.