Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

Slide 4

Fussy eaters

A common concern expressed by parents at my clinic is how can they get their fussy child to eat a healthy and varied diet.

From 6 to 12 months this can be easy as babies are willing to try new foods, flavours and textures especially if you allow your child to play with their food. Forget the special pureed food, forget feeding them with a spoon (only to have them turn their head), let your baby explore, feel and play with their food and they will taste it and grow to love that food.

A few years ago, one of my clients told me she was worried that her 10 month old daughter wasn’t interested in solids. She would refuse the food that her mother tried to feed her. After implementing some of the suggestions I made, this mum sent me a beautiful thank you card with this message:

“Dear Inez, Thank you so much for all your support. It seems my daughter likes the food that my husband and I eat more than something I prepare especially for her. She also loves fresh fruit more than stewed fruit. So I have decided to take it easy and am more relaxed about introducing solids than before. Thank you again for your kindness. My daughter and I have been helped so much by your advice.”

So what were my suggestions that helped this 10 month old to eat real food? All I suggested was that she let her daughter play with her food and to spend meal times together as a family sharing food. I gave her Gill Rapley’s BabyLed Weaning website which explains the concept including safety tips to prevent choking hazards. I also emphasised that eating together as a family encourages babies and children to try new foods. Babies tend to become fussy eaters if they have their meal on their own and away from the family table. They don’t get to see the variety of food that their parents are eating which would normally make them interested in trying those foods.

The concept of letting babies touch and explore food as a way to introduce solids is not new and is something that families have been doing for a long time (especially when there is more than one child in the family and a lack of time to prepare special baby meals). Babies who have their first taste of food this way tend to eat a healthy and varied diet. It’s not until the toddler years that they may start to reject new foods without tasting it. Don’t you love those assertive toddlers that want to do everything themselves and do things their way?

Remember that toddlers learn by copying you, their siblings and playmates. They may start to reject new foods but this should pass if they see other people around them eating a variety of foods. Research has shown that you may need to offer a new food up to 12 times before a toddler will accept it. Avoid making food a battle but if food rejection is becoming an issue offer them a choice between two or three food options to appeal to their growing independence. If your toddler likes to help around the house, ask them to help prepare their own food as a way to encourage healthy eating.

Toddlers may be reluctant to eat well if they are tired, unwell or anxious, distracted by toys or a new environment, had enough to eat beforehand or filled up on too much juice or milk, and if there is no mealtime routine or the mealtime experience is negative.