Tips to Deal with a Fussy Eater.
If you are a mother of a fussy eater than you aware of the importance of food, because there is nothing like a daily challenge to bring focus onto a particular area of your life. Instead of losing sleep over it and having frustration and arguments surface each meal time, with a fussy eater there is a certain grace needed. There is a HUGE temptation to feed the fussy eater with anything, just to get them to eat. You do need to be more flexible with them, however children thrive on boundaries and guidance, so there is a fine balance.
MAKE WHAT THEY DO EAT COUNT
Most fussy eaters have a few particular foods they want to eat repetitively - often pasta, bread, sugary foods and another one I hear a lot is sausages!
Spend the money and buy the best quality pasta, organic sausages or freshly baked breads, top with high quality butter instead of margarine or what ever food it happens to be. If apple is the only fruit they eat, dish out and buy organic apples as you want what ever they DO put in their mouth to provide them with the highest amount of nutrients possible.
These foods may not be ideal, but they will not kill them. However highly processed foods filled with preservatives and artificial flavours HAVE been shown to cause mental disturbances and physical reactions. As their diet is probably already lacking, it is very important NOT to overload their system with these chemicals.
AVOID PRESERVATIVES AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS
Filling the void with processed, packaged foods can have the effect of appeasing parents - “at least my child is eating something”. However the preservatives and artificial flavours they often contain can cause disturbances in children's neural pathways and in the long run may make it harder for them to come around to eating naturally, as the child's palette becomes desensitised from chemical flavours. (This is true for adults as well!).
Also very important is to avoid filling them up on empty sugary drinks - this includes packaged fruit juices which often contain as much sugar as soft drinks!
ENCOURAGE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
As the fussy eater grows, you can begin to educate them softly and simply on food: how it grows, how it is digested and utilised by the body, what's wrong with processed foods, etc. To do this YOU must also learn about it!
For an older child, you could encourage them to keep a food chart for a week with positive reinforcement - not as a reward system, as you do not want to create any guilt surrounding their eating habits, but rather bringing into their focus what they are actually fuelling their body with. With the education and self awareness, they may feel empowered to take responsibility for their eating habits and choices.
If you are lucky enough to have your own veggie patch or can visit a community vegetable garden, get your child involved to develop an interest and relationship with how foods grows and gets onto our plates.
Also involve your child in the cooking process. Children love cooking, mixing, chopping. Even young ones can be a participant in the kitchen -there are great benches you can purchase now so they can safely stand and “work”.
HIDING THE GOODIES
Every mother has tried it and knows the fussy eater is an expert at finding that sneaky carrot you put in the pasta sauce! Keep trying!
Smoothies are a wonderful way to hide nutrition packed foods. Try:
- raw eggs
- rice protein powder
- any vegetable or fruit you can get away with!
Pancakes cooked the healthy way (ripe banana's and eggs - with or without buckwheat flour) are also a great source of goodness.
To porridge you can add LSA, or a small amount of flaxseed or coconut oil.
GIVE SNACKS A MISS
For some, snacking can keep their day running smoothly, constantly grazing on healthy cut up fruit and vegetables. With a fussy eater, it can easily backfire but not allowing them the opportunity to feel really hungry. Fussy eaters are VERY stubborn and even when they are hungry, often do not crack right away. Stick the no snack policy out for a week and see if it makes any difference.
MAKE IT FUN
Never underestimate the Peter Pan effect on young children! Make-believe play with foods part of the adventure of eating. The age old flying plane trick for the young baby, the “big muscles like superman” for the toddler, or creating a face/pattern out of the food for the preschooler.
Sit and eat with your child. Don't rush to clean up, or plonk them in front of the TV. Sit and be present with your child and let them watch you eating. They learn from us. Role-modelling is WAY more effective at influencing behaviour than empty words!
A LITTLE PEER PRESSURE CAN BE A GOOD THING
Even young children are influenced by their peers - in good ways and bad! If possible, invite your friend's children or their kindy friends for lunch/dinner and allow your child to see other children eating the food that they refuse. There is no need to make a big deal out of it - just the act of them seeing it may be enough to nudge them to try a little.
It's a last resort, but with fussy eaters sometimes it can be a blessing! Tomato sauce, soy sauce, cheese sauce…. what ever floats their boat. Again, make sure the sauce is the best possible quality and with no artificial flavours (if you can find one!).
It is better they eat vegetables or the egg/beans etc. without these BUT if some tomato sauce means they will actually eat something healthy HALLELUJAH!! Baby steps!
Vitamin and mineral supplements should not be seen as a solution to a deficiency, as ultimately food should be able to provide us with the nutrition our bodies need. BUT with a fussy eater, they can be a buffer to get through tricky phases and to avoid physical and mental symptoms from malnutrition.
- Zinc. There is a theory that fussy eaters may be deficient in zinc as it can change your palette!
- Floradix is a natural, nice tasting liquid
- Children's multi powder-metagenics or bioceuaitcals
THIS TOO SHALL PASS
You cannot force a child to eat no matter what you do. No matter what other mothers or good meaning friends may tell you - it is not possible! Have the intent, keep trying and then, to stay sane, have grace…. and breathe. One day, that fussy child may surprise you.