Tips for handling your fussy eater

What’s the fuss about: Kids won’t eat what they don't recognise

Children between the ages of two and six often reject foods that they do not recognise. This refusal to try new things probably stems from what our ancestors learnt from birth. A fear of unknown fruits is likely to have saved them from poisoning. Keep offering your children something new in a friendly manner and they will, in most cases, lose this impulse to reject. Here are a few things you can do. 

Never Force Feed

Don't be discouraged if your little nippers are fussy eaters. Keep trying them with the meals they turn down. Initial rejection will not always become permanent. It is possible that, by behaving this way, your child is just looking for your undivided attention. At some point, they will try the food. What is important is that you do not force them to eat what they don't like or don't recognise. Similar to a ban, which further increases the desire for certain foods, the pressure to eat can increase rejection.

Praise your child when he or she tries something new and focuses on the meal. If your child still hasn't finished 25 minutes after the family mealtime has started, tell them calmly and decisively that you are now going to clear the table. If your child sometimes gets hungrier than normal between mealtimes, offer him/her fruits or raw vegetables.

Be the Healthy Mom & Dad

Be a role model to your child so that he or she loses their fear of unknown foods. Try to eat together at table as a family as often as possible. If you yourself get enthusiastic about a delicious, colourful plate of different vegetables and your child sees how much you are enjoying your meal, he or she will become curious and volunteer to go ahead and try it out himself/herself.

Let your child help with shopping and cooking as well. This way, your child can get to know the variety of foods, what they are like raw, as well as their smell and appearance. This could be made into a playful activity wherein you could tell your kid all about the vegetables and fruits and let them have the final pick. Cooking independently brings pride and a meal you have cooked yourself naturally tastes much better than one Mummy or Daddy has cooked.

Make Mealtimes Fun Times

Mealtimes get stressful with fussy eaters and whiners. Parents can counteract this by ensuring that there is a stress-free atmosphere at the table. The aim therefore is to create a calm and friendly mood at meal times. Eating should not be associated with noise, bad temper or stress. This inhibits appetite and unfamiliar foods have no chance of making it all the way to the stomach. Just like adults, children like it when it is calm and comfortable.

Candle light, flowers they have picked themselves and fancy/colourful napkins create a pleasant dining atmosphere. Make sure your children have enough time to eat at meal times. They cannot eat as quickly as adults. It is also important to let your child eat as independently as possible, even if they make a mess. Between the ages of three and four, most children can eat all by themselves and can also use cutlery. Ensure that small children have the appropriate cutlery – this helps little ones to learn how to use it properly and not hurt themselves.

Tasty Tests

Find out which herbs and spices your child likes best. Many children, for example, like curry, mint, cinnamon, basil etc. Every now and then, let your child decide for themselves how to season and decorate their food. This increases the chances of them eating new or less popular meals. You can put sugar, salt, pepper, lemon juice into a little bowl. Your child can then taste it by dipping their finger in it. This way, they will come to recognise different flavours and be able to consciously choose their favourites. Ready-made spice mixes too, like MAGGI MASALA-AE-MAGIC can add tasty and fun variety.

Don’t Give Up

If your child often rejects new dishes, this can occasionally lead to a one-sided and unbalanced diet. Do not give up, but keep trying them with new foods. Experience shows that dishes which have been rejected must be offered at least 15 times before the child will accept them. A very creative way to make them have food they don’t find desirable is by making it look fun, colourful, innovative and very playful. Build a story around the food items and make characters. Once the food has character and is associated with their favourites, they will gobble it all up without any fuss.