Is your little sprout a picky eater? It’s a common fear for parents to worry that their children aren't getting the nutrients they need due to selective eating habits.
Now, this may be the last thing you want to hear, but we have to start by saying:It’s normal for our little humans to be fussy eaters.
That's right - all that sass about not liking the taste, shape, colour, or texture of particular foods all happens as a part of children’s development. It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. And it’s also because children’s appetites fluctuate depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are.
Remember that your child's eating habits are unlikely to change overnight (unfortunately) but the small steps you take each day now can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.
Below are our top 10 tips to help your kids overcome picky eating habits!
There’s no need to cry about spilt milk - or food, or any other element of the meal that should be landing in their mouths and not the floor! It’s bound to happen. During these early ages, mealtime should be a time of easy-going experimentation and interaction.
Encourage your child by talking about a food's colour, shape, smell and texture — not just about whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child's favourite foods. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
Talk to your child about the variety of their food, what they think about it, and stir curiosity over why we eat some foods more than others. Keep mealtime as one of gentle encouragement rather than forcing new food experiences.
Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If your child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to eat nutritious food.
Research suggests that it takes between 10 and 12 ‘exposures’ to any given food before they give it their tick of approval. Exposure might be looking at a food in the serving dish, listening to a parent talk about eating it, helping prepare the food, feeling the food, or trying a nibble of it.
Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite.
If your child is fussing about food, ignore it as much as you can. Giving fussy eating lots of attention can sometimes unintentionally be encouraging that type of behaviour.
Involving kids in meal prep makes them active participants and gives them a sense of control from the get-go. Have your little sprout help pick out groceries, prepare food and set the table. This sparks their curiosity in the process of the food and encourages them to want to be a part of the end result: eating the food.
You can also dress up ‘boring’ foods by including them with their favourite side dishes or sauces. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a yummy dip or cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters!
To take it a step further, link the foods to their favourite books, songs or shows to take advantage of their vibrant imaginations, like giving coloured foods crazy and creative names. Blended spinach into their before-school smoothie? Say hello to the HULK shake!
Turning off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals will help your little one to focus on the learning experience of eating. Keep in mind that television advertising with its bright colours and flashy gimmicks might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods.
While the promise of a sweet may stop the tantrum for the time being, it's not a viable long-term solution. Promising dessert as a motivator leaves the impression that "treats" are more valuable than the main course and almost positions the healthier foods as something they have to suffer through to deserve the reward. As they grow older, it’s ideal for kids to come to appreciate healthy foods for their nutritional value - not just as a pathway to dessert!
Set a time limit of about 20 to 25 minutes for meals. Any food left on the plate after that amount of time is unlikely to get eaten and their limited attention span will have likely dwindled by this point. Give them gentle encouragements as the time limit comes nearer, and if they haven't eaten the food in this time, take it away and don’t offer any more food until the next planned meal or snack time.
If they protest that they’re still hungry, simply remind them that their next snack or mealtime isn't far away.
Give your kids some say in the matter when it comes to what healthy foods they want to eat. Just limit the options to 2-3 things so they don’t get too confused or overwhelmed to eat. For example, instead of asking your child to pick what they want from the fridge, you could ask, ‘Would you like grapes or carrot sticks?’
Children learn a lot from watching and listening to adults. Parents are role models, so be sure to model the healthy eating habits that you would like your child to develop.
In case they don’t eat much before turning their little noses up, try and serve foods and snacks that pack a lot of nutrition in small doses. For example, giving them foods that are high in calories and healthy fats like avocado, nut butters, and olive oil drizzled over vegetables.
Whether you’re struggling to get your little ones to stomach a range of nutritious foods at meal and snack times, or you simply want to boost their nutrition in the day, supporting a balanced diet with nutrient-rich supplements is a convenient and effective option. For example, ourJunior Plant Protein Shake contains 10g of complete plant protein, a generous serving of fruits and vegetables, probiotics and more, disguised as a delicious chocolate or vanilla milkshake!
Plus, our plant-basedToddler Drink is a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, packed with superfoods and probiotics - the perfect nutritional boost for young ones aged 1 - 3 years old!
Children’s appetites are affected by their growth cycles. Even babies have changing appetites. At 1-6 years, it’s common for children to be really hungry one day and picky the next. But with these easy and sneaky tips, you can navigate around their fussy food preferences to help your little ones establish a healthy relationship with good, wholesome food and ensure they are getting the nutrients they need to boost their growth and development.
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