Are you worried your toddler/child may be a fussy eater?
Do you get caught up in a merry-go-round of trying to feed your fussy eaters without a clear plan to tackle it? This is completely normal, its ok if you don’t know what to do and feel frustrated. Its part of being a parent, there are different challenges along the way and this is one of them.
We are fortunate enough to be on Team Sarah Keogh! Sarah Keogh is one of Ireland’s leading dietitians and knows everything there is to know about fussy eaters. She has hosted workshops for us in the past, they are so useful and give you a great start to dealing with a fussy eater. Here are some tips from her workshops.
Ground rules for dealing with a fussy eater
Sarah says, before you even start trying to change what and how your child eats, you need to set some rules. There are a few ground rules that are worth getting used to. These rules are for when children are healthy and well. Here is her first rule.
- Plan for 3 meals every day and 1-2 snacks. Plan to have a set time for meals and snacks – it does not need to be at the exact time every day but as close to it as you can. This way you avoid too many snacks and unplanned eating.
And another one…
Don’t panic about your child being hungry.
Parents are often terrified that their child will be hungry and so they fill up a fussy eater with snacks, favourite foods and treats if they don’t eat a meal. For many children this just teaches them that if they hold out long enough, then they will get what they want.
How to introduce new foods
I think we all give up way too quickly on this one! Here is what Sarah has to say about it.
- Put a small piece of the new food on a side plate beside the child’s main meal.
- Do not make any comment about the food.
- Keep doing this. After a while, the child may touch the food and, after about 16 goes, may eat it.
Sarah will tell you all about her Ground Rules, Table Techniques and help you manage a fussy eater. Have a notebook and pen ready, you’ll want lots of notes!
Get your fussy eater into the kitchen
Get your children to chop their own veg, cut their own food on the dinner plate. This goes a long way towards helping your child get to know their food. If you are nervous about this, we have the perfect tool. We used the Kiddikutter safety knife exclusively in our cookery school. Suitable for age 3+. It cuts food not fingers. Click here to read our blog post on Kiddikutters or simply click here to buy.
Getting involved in preparing their food is a great way to familiarise your children with different food types and textures.
What about fussy eaters at dinner?
Cooking every day is already a chore, never mind dealing with the stress of worrying about a fussy eater. With just a few nudges to help you, Sarah gives simple tips to make mealtimes easier. She makes you think about how you serve dinner, what its served on, is your child sitting comfortably, the general environment. This is a good place to start that isn’t about the food.
I have a fussy eater
A mother who attended one of Sarah’s workshops shares her experience of managing a fussy eater..
“I wondered if my son would ever have a decent diet and to be honest my expectations were not that high. I just wanted him to eat something with protein, some fruit or veg and ANYTHING instead of potato waffles (Bird’s Eye only).
He was a super eater as a baby/toddler, his cheeks were plump and he looked strong. I made a big effort to make all his dinners and he ate everything I gave him.
As he got a bit older, he became fussy. Lots of children get fussy with food once they realise they can just say “no”.
I watched my chubby toddler become a skinny kid and I often worried about his weight. If he was sick and lost a bit more weight he was like a bag of bones..
He is 10 now and his diet has improved way beyond my low expectations. He is still fussy with his food, but he is getting enough of the important stuff and is a really healthy weight. He is also generally in good form because he is sustained with good food.
Talking to dietitian Sarah Keogh is a huge part of what helped my help my son.
I have been known to send her pictures of his dinner because I am so proud of what he is eating!
The main thing I learned from Sarah is to cut back on the snacking, when my son snacks he is quite simply not as hungry and that can make him fussy at dinner.
One interesting thing for us is that associations make him more interested in certain foods. He tried a burger because he wants to be American and burgers are “American”
Whatever works right?
My advice to anyone with a child with fussy eating? Get advice from a dietitian. Doing this stopped me scrolling endlessly on my phone for solutions and a lot of heart ache. The simplest of changes made a massive difference to us. Until they were pointed out to me by Sarah, I wouldn’t have noticed.