As busy parents know, getting a home-cooked, nutritious meal on the table at dinnertime can be a test of stamina and mental agility even on a good day. But if you also have a fussy eater in the family then meal times can become an anxious and stressful daily occurrence. However with the help of a few encouraging hints and tips, fussy eaters can be encouraged to enjoy a varied and healthy diet, and their families can look forward to sitting down to an enjoyable meal together.
Firstly it’s important to understand why so many toddlers can be picky eaters. After going through a period of rapid growth from birth, toddlers are now starting to gain weight more slowly. They no longer need the round the clock baby feeds and their need for nutrients has plateaued. They are also becoming much more active, preferring to snack regularly instead of focusing on bigger meals. Erratic eating habits are normal for a toddler. What they love to eat one day can be shunned the next. As contrary as this may seem it’s important to offer toddlers the same new flavours more than once. This gives them time to develop a taste for something and allows their palette to adjust to new foods as they are introduced.
A nibble tray is a great way to introduce new flavours amongst foods that you know are already accepted. An ice cube tray gives you the opportunity to serve up several different finger foods such as avocado pieces, cheese slices and small broccoli chunks in a fun, self-service manner. Try to avoid using snacks to compensate for eating real meals at meal times. It’s easy to adopt the ‘better to eat anything rather than nothing at all’ strategy but it can lead to tougher times when trying to encourage a set meal pattern.
Try not to offer a sweet course as a reward for finishing a savoury one. Toddlers can be quick to view a sweet course as more desirable as a result. Don’t be tempted to offer your toddler an array of different meals if they refuse to eat what is on their plate. Some toddlers will learn to take advantage of this. Instead try to introduce new foods alongside foods you know they already like. It’s great to encourage toddlers to enjoy food and to praise them when they eat well. But if a toddler has had enough to eat you can be doing more harm than good to be spoon-feeding them until you have an empty plate.
Try to limit distractions, even the family pet meowing under the table can seem more appealing than getting on with eating a meal. Take your toddler shopping, you don’t have to struggle through the weekly shop together, instead try a smaller shop for specific ingredients that will go into their meal. It’s great to involve your toddler in a fun trip to supermarket and it also offers them an appreciation for food away from the meal table.
Last but not least, sit down together. It’s not always easy or practical to eat your evening meal at the same time as your toddler, but by joining them at the table and letting them see you eat the same foods your toddler will gain confidence to eat foods they were originally unsure about.
For busy days when you’re not able to prepare food yourself, Little Dish can help you to produce nutritious and tasty food for your little ones. Their fresh meals are made using only 100% natural ingredients and have no added salt, additives or preservatives. All their recipes have been taste tested by a team of ‘Tiny Tasters’ so you know they have been approved by little ones like your own – good news for fussy eaters. You’ll find their meals in the chilled aisles of Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons and on Ocado.com.
You can read more tips on feeding little ones and download lots of tasty recipes at www.littledish.co.uk