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Fussy eating - Here's what to do

These days we seem to be very focused on our children's eating, possibly due to being inundated with information about how and what we should be feeding them.

I am often asked about fussy eating, so here are a few of my top tips.

Don't get frustrated

I think it is pretty normal for young children to be what we deem as fussy with their eating. They are finding their independence and their appetites change depending on how they are growing. Lots of meals not eaten, liking something one day then not the next, it can be really frustrating, but the more of a fuss you make the more your little one is likely to make a fuss.

See the bigger picture

It can be hard work as a parent to ensure your child is meeting all their nutritional needs each day. Often, if you look at your child's diet over a whole week instead of day to day you will find that they will have met their requirements though. Appetites are sometimes greater one day and smaller the next and they will vary depending on how much they are growing or how active they are.

Get them involved

Involving your child will let them have some of the control. Let them set the table, choose plates etc and help prepare their food. This could be making sandwiches or stirring a sauce on the hob. I often find that if children see exactly what is going into their meals they will be less suspicious and eat what they have made.

Limit their options and give them choice

I am yet to meet a child that will not eat 'picky bits' This is one of my children's favourite meal ideas. It lets the children choose easy to eat finger foods, a bit like a picnic at the table, and often you will find they go for foods that they would not usually have eaten. Giving your child too much choice though can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, so limit their choices and always make sure that there are foods you know your child will definitely eat alongside ones they make a fuss about.

Make meal times sociable

Meal times are a great time for the family to come together and talk with one another and this can be a great way to take the focus off the food. Eating together also gives you the opportunity to model good eating habits and your child is likely to eat a better variety of food.

Introducing new foods

This is always a tricky one but the key thing is to persevere. It may take a while but eventually your child may like the new food so keep offering it.

Put a small amount on their plate alongside familiar foods that your child already likes and encourage them to touch and smell or lick the new food. Keep it fuss free and praise them for trying.

Often, eating alongside other children will help too as if they see their friends eating something they will want to as well, so try and organise lunch and tea dates.

I also like to tell my two how the food they are trying helps their bodies. So, salmon is good for your brain, spinach is good for your bones, tomatoes are good for your eyes. This definitely makes the food more appealing.

Don't over do it

Make sure you are not giving your child too big a portion. Every child has different requirements on how much they can eat and this will vary from day to day but if they are faced with too much food to begin with they can become overwhelmed and feel under pressure to eat it all which will lead to refusal and could make them anxious about meal times.

Start with the recommended portion size for a child of their age and they will soon let you know if they would like more.

Do not punish

Never punish your child for refusing food or not trying something new. This causes negative associations with eating and they will not want to try the food again. Instead, calmly remove the food and try again another time.

Try not to bribe them with sweets or chocolate either - ''You can have a sweet if you eat your carrot'' isn't a great way of teaching them a healthy diet.

*If you are worried that your child isn't enough of all the food groups, or doesn't seem to be thriving, make sure that you visit your Health visitor or GP for advice.

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