Fussy eaters Tips for children and toddlers

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    Information & Advice

    Fussy eaters: Tips for children and toddlers

    Fussy eating and fear of new foods affects one in five children aged under five, and it's actually part of normal development

    Fussy eating: Picky eaters and fussy toddlers

    Patricia Mucavele
    • Sit fussy eaters next to good eaters at mealtimes, such as an older sibling at home or other children at a nursery, the idea being that the good eaters become role models and the fussy eater start to adopt their food preferences.

    • When adults eat the same food as children and make enthusiastic comments about what they are eating. It will encourage the children to copy their behaviour.

    • Children may need up to 15 tastes of a new food before they decide that they like it so don't be too disheartened by rejection! If they're not keen on something at first, offer plenty of opportunities to keep trying small amounts, prepared in different ways.

    • When your child is trying a new food, give them control of the situation; let them know they can spit it out if they really don't like it.

    • Don't use food they like, especially puddings or sweets, as a reward for trying new or disliked food. If you want to reward your child for trying new things, use stickers or a chart.

    • Big servings of a new food can be daunting, so offer a small portion at first and if they enjoy it, and are still hungry, offer seconds.

    Healthy meals for children who are picky eaters

    "Whatever age you are, the more variety in your diet, the better," says Patricia Mucavele who is research and nutrition senior manager at the School Food Trust, a charity that advises the Government on children's food.

    Fussy eaters: Tips for picky toddlers

    "Children see adults as role models, so if you are enthusiastic about trying new foods, its likely your child will be too."

    "Sit with your children when they eat, and lead by example – don't add salt to your food at the table, use your cutlery correctly and finish all your vegetables!"

    Fussy eaters: Selective eating

    "Forcing children to finish what's on their plate before leaving the table or to eat food that they don't want, can lead to an even greater dislike of that food, and could become a habit they take into adulthood."

    Fussy eaters: Tips for picky eaters

    If your little fussy eater is attached to a particular type of unhealthy food, it's alright to let them eat it as a one-off.

    "It isn't always easy to get your child to eat the right types and amounts of food," says Patricia. "So as long as it doesn't become the norm, it's OK to provide a well-loved, perhaps less healthy meal from time to time."

    The fussy eater and travel

    "Eating new and unfamiliar foods on holiday is a great way for all of us to increase variety in our diets and teach children about the food of other cultures," says Patricia.

    Fussy eaters: Picky eaters and new foods

    "Just like you would at home, introduce your child to new tastes gradually, perhaps encouraging them to try a small amount from your plate. As they become more familiar and confident with new ingredients and flavours, you can give them their own portion."

    Fussy eaters: Tips for picky eaters

    If your child is unwilling to sample foreign fare, Patricia suggests packing some of their favourite food to take with you.

    "It's a good idea to pack some favourite foods in your hand luggage, especially if you are travelling for a long time or if you are expecting to arrive at your destination in the evening when shops and restaurants may be closed," she says. "Check current rules at customs as some countries will not allow you to bring certain foods into the country."

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