Is your child a fussy eater and struggling with diversity in their diet?
The most effective method for encouraging children to explore new foods is continued exposure. Our kids need to be exposed to a ‘new’ food approximately 10 times before they will consider consuming it.
So if you find yourself putting foods on plates KNOWING that it’s probably not going to be eaten, you’re actually taking a positive step in the right direction!
Naturopath Ashlee and mum of two talks you through her simple steps for getting veggies into the fussiest of eaters.
We want new foods to be a positive experience. Pushing foods on kids or using threats turns meal times into a stressful situation for the whole family. Unfortunately, this can actually contribute to the negative emotions surrounding new foods or particular meals, and so the cycle continues.
So, what do you actually do?
Don’t take away safe foods in the hope that children will then eat something else. We don’t want new foods to be a source of stress and anxiety. New foods shouldn’t be the reason safe foods are being withheld. Serve the safe foods and have new foods available.
Where possible, everyone in the family is served the same options during meal times. Involve children in the process.
Farmers markets, grocery shopping (even selecting which foods for an online grocery order), helping to prepare meals and snacks are all great ways to create positive relationships with food.
Results won’t happen overnight; this will take time. In a way, trying new foods is a journey that continues into adulthood – that’s why it’s so important to take steps to make this process a positive experience.
Personally, I don’t actually enjoy salad. It’s cold and I’ve never enjoyed raw veggies. Look for different ways to prepare and include vegetables in meals (if you need help, reach out, that’s what I’m here for). Also, be honest about why you eat a particular food, even if you don’t really enjoy it. Fair enough, you know cucumber is good for you – but do you know why? Do you know why it’s good for your child, and do you know how to communicate that to them in an age appropriate way?
Who’s calling the shots?
Around age two, our children begin to develop body autonomy – they want to make decisions that concern them for themselves. This is an important developmental milestone, so I actually recommend taking a step back and giving some decision making power to the little people.
Let them decide what kind, or how many fruits and vegetables they want to put on their plate or lunchbox – “do you want cucumbers or tomatoes today? “Have you chosen a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl, or would you like to choose something from the fridge?”
You’re still in charge, but they have options.
The importance of family meal times
I can say this until I’m blue in the face – monkey see, monkey do. If you’re eating veggies, your child is going to feel more inclined to do the same. This gives the adults the opportunity to show that they themselves have a positive relationship with food, and feel good about eating a meal together as a family.
What if you’ve tried this before, but there’s still no improvement
Nutritional deficiencies can actually change the way our children experience taste. If there’s no vibrancy to the way foods taste, there isn’t much enjoyment in trying new foods.
Nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to sensory feeding issues, such as aversions to different textures and temperatures.
Where there is restrictive feeding issues, there are often nutritional deficiencies. Identifying these deficiencies, correcting them, and then taking steps to reduce the risk of it happening again is a fundamental part of nutritional medicine. If your kids need more help, book an appointment with Children’s Health Naturopath Ashlee.