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Aveen Bannon

A parents guide to fussy eaters          

Firstly you are not alone! Most children will go through a phase of not eating well. In fact, fussy eating is now recognised as a normal part of a child’s development….Another parenting challenge! Try to remember in most cases it is just a phase and as long as your child appears healthy, has energy and is meeting growth goals you probably do not need to worry.

Children’s appetites, like our own,  can vary from day to day so it is a good idea to listen to their appetite cues. For example, some children eat better earlier in the day than the evening time or others tend to graze on food. At a young age this can be ok…snacking can be a very important part of kids diets and they can rely on snacks for about 30% of their calories. So always have healthy snacks to hand e.g. fruit, yogurts, rice- cakes, cheese etc.

Food refusal can be a show of independence, seeking attention or wanting to take control of food. Whatever the reason for fussy eating here is some tips to help keep you sane!

  1. Avoid giving your child fluids before mealtimes in case they fill up on them. Also ensure your child does not rely too much on milk, 400-500 mls of milk per day is plenty for a child over 1 year of age.
  2. Don’t take foods off the plate…if a child states they don’t like ‘the green’ on the plate just tell them to leave it or just try one bite. Don’t take it off the plate as it will be much harder to get it back on at a later date. Keeping colour on the plate is important.
  3. Although it can be trying, keep offering new foods… Some children will need to be exposed to foods 12 times before they decide if they like it!
  4. Keep a list of the foods your child will eat and post it on the fridge in the kitchen. With every bit of progress add it to the list.
  5. However tempting try to avoid bribery! Otherwise, it won’t take long for them to realise they have the upper hand!!
  6. Avoid offering alternatives at the table…if you do it can run the risk of becoming a personal chef and making multiple dinners nightly.
  7. When possible try to eat as a family or sit down at the table with the child while they are eating. This can make the mealtimes a more positive social experience. Avoid distractions like TV at mealtimes.
  8. Don’t force feed – the child may develop a negative association with a food.
  9. Try to be patient and encourage your child with lots of smiles and praise, the golden rule is; if after 20 minutes the food is not eaten simply remove uneaten food and perhaps offer something from the same food group an hour later.
  10. And remember, children learn by example, so if you’re fussy they’ll be fussy too!

 If you have any concerns ask for professional help, from a dietitian or doctor.

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