If there’s one thing every parent of young children understands it’s the frustration of trying to get their kids to eat a balanced diet. You begin with noble ideals – my children will only eat organic, they won’t eat sugar, this is a no-preservative household – only to break all your own rules because you’d rather your child eat something than nothing at all. And it just so happens that the only thing you kid will eat at the moment is mashed potatoes and jelly beans.
Some children have a lot of trouble adapting to new flavours and textures when it comes to food. Understanding that it’s anxiety and fear that’s fuelling the fussy eating (and not bloody-mindedness, although that comes into play too) can go a long way to allaying your own frustrations. The more you focus on getting the child to eat, the more anxious he or she can become, and the less likely they are to clean their plates.
Experts suggest that getting children involved with the shopping and cooking process is a good way for them to learn about different foods, and take an interest in them. The following can help make food less intimidating for kids:
- Do family shopping trips. Ask your child to pick a new type of food each time to encourage trying new things. Talk to them about vegetables and fruit and why they’re good for growing bodies. Research the facts so you can fuel your child’s mind as well as body.
- Give your child a role in the kitchen, be it stirring the pot or washing the lettuce or helping grate cheese, if they’re old enough. A child is more likely to want to eat a meal they helped contribute to making because they feel a sense of ownership over it.
- Try not to shout or get angry. If your child was having trouble learning to swim, you’d be encouraging when they did something right and offer consolation when they weren’t feeling so confident. Approach eating the same way.
- Set a good example. By eating well, enjoying your healthy choices and explaining your food choices to your child, he or she will soon want to emulate you and feel included in the fun.
Despite your best efforts, some kids remain stubbornly reluctant to eat properly. In this instance, the best thing to do would be to invest in a good nutritional supplement to ensure your kid gets all the vitamins vital for healthy development.