From the moment weaning begins, it is important that your child starts to nurture a life-long positive approach to food, mealtimes and eating. Meals should be happy from the start! Follow my top tips for happy eaters and both you and your child can have stress free, happy meals together.
- Let your child have the control over what goes into their mouth: try giving them their own spoon or offer some finger foods, allow them to see the food they’re about to eat (don’t hide it in a bowl out of their reach), and allow your child to expore the food by touching it before they eat it. If spoon-feeding, avoid pushing the spoon to the back of their mouths – place the spoon near their lips and let them choose to take it off the spoon themselves.
- Include a variety of foods in your child’s diet and don’t ignore previously refused foods: it can take 15-20 exposures of one food before a child learns to like the taste.
- Never force your child to eat anything: this includes persuading them to eat beyond their appetite. Don’t worry about having a clean plate – it is much better that your child learns to understand their own feelings of hunger and fullness. Don’t panic if they haven’t eaten much that day – forcing them to eat will not make anything better in the long term.
- Role model good eating: children love to mimic and if they see you eating (and enjoying) your vegetables they are likely to copy.
- Mess is good! Messy meal times are happy meal times. Allow your chld to explore food with all their senses and stop yourself from wiping them clean before the meal is finished. If children are not given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the pleasure of exploring food before they eat it, they often end up disinterested in food and reluctant to eat.
Finally, expect that your child will go through a phase of fussy eating. It is a normal developmental milestone, but if appropriately managed will usually resolve. If you are worried about prolonged fussy eating, nutrient intake or extreme food refusal it is a good idea to get in touch with a paediatric dietitian to help you nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of hand.