Feeding picky children can be frustrating!
Getting a picky eater to eat a nutritious meal is a challenge that needs to be managed carefully, in order not to create stress in an already fraught situation. Karen van Zyl gives us some tips . . .
Sweeten vegetables by topping them with a little mild vinegar, lemon juice or honey, or add caramelised onions to them. Most vegetables are sweeter when they are raw, so children may prefer them.
Respect Your Child’s Tastes
Everyone has foods they like and dislike. If your child has tried something and says she does not like it, then respect her decision to say “No”. Always offer new food with familiar and well-liked choices. That way your child may be more tempted to give it a try.
Use an ice-cube tray or a muffin tin and put bite-sized portions of colourful and nutritious foods in each section. Call these finger foods playful names: Apple Moons, Avocado Boats, Cheese Lego, Egg Canoes. Use some purple food colouring and glitter next time you bake pancakes – Barbie Fairy Princess Pancakes!
Dip it, Spread it, Top it
Young children think that immersing foods in a tasty dip is pure fun (and delightfully messy). Toddlers also like to spread, or more accurately, smear. Toddlers are into toppings. Putting nutritious, familiar favourites on top of new and less-desirable foods is a way to broaden the finicky toddler’s menu. Some possibilities with which to dip / smear / top: Cottage cheese, cheese spread, guacamole, pureed fruits or vegetables, yoghurt.
If your child would rather drink than eat, don’t despair. Make a smoothie – together. Use a meal supplement, like Promise PE Gold, in preparation of your smoothies.
Appearance is important. Use toy plates or a tea set for dishing out snacks. Food served on the back of a tipper truck will be well received. Serve bite-sized portions such as mini bread rolls, hamburgers, hotdogs, quiches etc.
Respect Tiny Tummies
Keep food portions small – a young child’s stomach is approximately the size of his fist! The less-is-more meal plan has the added benefit of stabilising blood-sugar levels, which in turns minimises mood swings. Toddlers are particularly prone to filling up on too much milk or juice, but at the same time, children need to stay well hydrated. Offer water to quench a thirst.
Use the Step by Step Bite Rule
Through a process of Systematic Desensitisation, you can introduce the 5 step Bite Rule.
Day 1: Only touch the food
Day 2: Only give the food a kiss
Day 3: Only touch the food with your front teeth
Day 4: Only touch the food with your back teeth
Day 5: One bite, chew and swallow
My feet dangle
Toddlers can concentrate better if their feet are not dangling. Children are likely to sit and eat longer at a child-size table and chair where their feet touch the ground.
Let Them Cook
Children like to eat their own creations so let your child help prepare the food. Use cookie cutters to create edible designs out of foods like cheese, bread, thin meat slices. Give your child such jobs as tearing and washing lettuce, scrubbing potatoes or stirring batter.
Use a Fresh Food Feeder
This will assist your toddler to try new flavours or to introduce regular whole foods without the risk of choking. Simply put a piece of fruit, vegetable or meat into the mesh bag and snap shut. Your child can chew, suck and enjoy all the whole food goodness and taste, with only the tiniest, digestible pieces coming through.
Be a Good Role Model
As a parent, your children watch and mimic what you do (and eat!), so make healthy food choices and finish your veggies in front of your kids!
By Karen van Zyl