A recent study by a student at UCL suggested that there was a genetic link to fussy eating. Although the study looks like quite a good one but where does this leave parents? Do we just put it down to genes and move on? Surely we still have to intervene?
There are lots of things we can do as parents to help our children develop a healthy relationship to food. Whether children have the genetic makeup which leads to fussiness or not, all children need to be taught how to handle food. Here is a list of things we can do.
- Make meal times happy occasions
- Talk to your child
- Give lots of praise for eating well
- Don’t force a child to finish their food
- Don’t give up on a food after 1 attempt at offering it, it can take a while to accept new foods (10 times plus)
- Try mixing foods they don’t like so much with foods they like
- Eat the food your toddler doesn’t like very calmly yourself in front of them
- Don’t assume that if your child doesn’t eat something one day that they don’t like it
- Let your child take food off your plate – if it is age appropriate
- Allow lots of time and don’t worry about mess
- Never bargain with your child – especially important when rewards are high sugar foods or foods high in saturated fat.
- Never give food or drink as a reward e.g. for ‘being a good boy/girl’ or an achievement
- Don’t watch TV during meals regularly
- Avoid having snacks close to meal times as it can take the edge off their appetite
- If your child has a negative experience with a food, don’t dwell on it
- Encourage physical activity
- Encourage them to have 12 hours sleep a day
- Get your child involved in shopping and food preparation (if it is safe)
If you do have a fussy eater, you are likely to find mealtimes quite stressful. You are not alone.
- Try to keep calm and go with the flow (I understand this is easier said than done)
- Continue with the prevention steps above
- Try separating the food out into lots of different bowls – some children don’t like different foods touching others
- Try cutting out the sauce or gravy as some children like to see exactly what they are eating
- Don’t give high sugar, high salt foods to pacify
- Seek professional help if fussy eating is making your child lose weight or you are concerned generally