Feeding matters: Food without fuss
Getting your toddler to eat a balanced diet can be difficult, but the best thing parents can do is not worry too much
Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30
Mums and dads of fussy eaters often come to dread the battleground that mealtimes become. While it can be extremely stressful when your toddler starts to turn his nose up at foods, with much of it ending up in the bin, take solace in the fact that this is a phase that most children go through. Around the age of 18-36 months, many toddlers become fussy eaters, and it's one way that they assert their independence. As difficult as it is for parents not to worry about this, try not to become anxious because if you're obviously stressed, your child is going to become aware of this and it could cause more problems.
Lead by example at home by having set meal times together as a family, where they can learn to eat food by copying and watching you. Be enthusiastic about what you're eating - even if you yourself aren't a huge fan of green vegetables - and praise your toddler when he eats well, which will encourage him. It's important that children can concentrate on mealtimes and food by making sure there are no distractions like TV or pets, and if your toddler hasn't finished the food, take it away, without making a big issue about it.
Sometimes toddlers will go through phases of only eating a particular food so include what they like at mealtimes, obviously within moderation. Offering him finger food, and letting him play with it if he wants to, will make him feel very grown-up, while he also learns about food textures - don't worry about the mess!
Something for parents of fussy eaters to be aware of, particularly around 18 months, is that children can sometimes be over reliant on their bottles. It's important to ensure that they're not filling up on milk and to check how much they're having in their feed.
Parents of fussy eaters are usually concerned as to whether or not their child is getting enough food. "Children are very resourceful - they will find things. If you actually sat down and did a food diary as you would in a Weight Watchers class and wrote what they eat all day, you'd realise they do eat, but that they're not sitting down and eating a full meal," says Cliodna Gilroy, education officer with NUK.
"It's very hard not to worry but if your child is doing well, if they have regular bowel movements and if they're thriving, I wouldn't stress about it too much."
If you are struggling to get your child to eat, she recommends going down the 'little and often' route. "Get some fruit, purée it up and put it in an Annabel Karmel by NUK ice lolly mould or food cube trays; pop it into the freezer and that way you are getting fresh fruit into your child and if they've helped you make it, it's all a novelty," Gilroy says.
"Children will chow down on strawberries just as quickly as jelly tots if they think it's a treat."
Patience is key. Just because your toddler is saying no to a food right now, it doesn't mean that he's always going to say no. The day will come when your child will eat a range of delicious nutritious food, even though he only wants to eat bread right now!