Does your fussy-eater hit all your buttons at meal time? Help is at hand.

Does your fussy-eater hit all your buttons at meal time? Help is at hand.

Does your fussy-eater hit all your buttons at meal time? Help is at hand.

We've all had those nights where nothing we have served for dinner is deemed "acceptable" to our 18month old. You haven't? That's amazing!! But for those who have or are about to - read on. 

I recently spoke to Krissy from Her Nourished Kids specifically about food refusal and fussy eating.

Krissy is a mum to three, a university qualified nutritionist. Her Nourished Kids combines Krissy's knowledge from her background in psychology, (BScPsycHons), with nutrition to provide evidence-based and realistic tips and recipes for parents.

Ultimately aiming for less stress, less picky eating and more fun at meal times. Krissy is a long-time friend of Wild Indiana and I'm so glad to share her expertise with you! 

What can we do to ensure we create an open environment at meal times to help prevent fussy eating?

First, I think it's helpful for parents to know that we can do all of the things and still have a child who is picky. A picky eater is almost never a parent's fault. 

However if you find yourself experiencing a bout of picky eating here's what I would suggest:

  • Having a reasonably consistent and predictable meal time rhythm, with as little grazing as possible. 
  • Eating together as a family as often as possible, ideally at least 3x per week.
  • Sticking to our roles at meal times. Parents are responsible for what food is served, when it's served. Kids are responsible for how much they choose to eat.

And my all time favourite - consistent exposure. It takes time for children to learn to like the taste of different foods - in fact, roughly 10-20 exposures.

In real time this looks like 2-4 weeks of consistently offering the same food every day - which we also know is not how we eat - so, possibly longer for new food to become accepted.

Unlike adults, our babies are not motivated by health outcomes - rather how a food tastes.

The more consistent we can be with our offerings, the safer a food appears and the more opportunities a child has to learn to like that food over time. 

How do we, Mum and Dad, stay cool at the dinner table, when our delicious dinner has been refused?

This is SO hard and so much of our frustration comes from a place of love and worry.

Unfortunately, those well-meaning, 'just one more bite' comments place pressure on a child and over time, pressure and bribery at meal times backfire. Kids may become MORE challenging to feed and more resistant to the foods we are trying to get them to eat.

A great strategy to help us stick to our meal time roles when we are finding it really hard is to distract our attention from what our child is or isn't eating.

Some of my favourite interactive distractions include knock knock jokes, talking about the favourite parts of our day and learning random interesting facts. 

Do we serve foods that are not an option for this meal if our child refuses to eat anything?

Like above, this so often comes from a place of love and worry. There are two things I would recomend: 

  1. Think of the day as a whole. Perhaps they have eaten all that they needed earlier in the day.  Perhaps we are all exhausted and need to take a break from meal time and try again soon.
  2. Think of the meal. Have we served safe and familiar food? Have we served something they've never tried before (and therefore are unlikely to eat because learning to like food takes time)? Are we eating as a family?

If for whatever reason you decide to offer more food, try to create a time-gap of at least 15-30 min between the rejected meal and the new/alternative meal.

Get down from the table and carry on with the routine, treating any additional/new food as a new snack or meal. This helps to minimise children associating food rejection with a reward -like their favourite yogurt. 

How important is it to let a fussy eater try new foods they request? Even if it could be a waste or they won't like it.

If a child is asking to try a new food, take their lead! This is wonderful! Keep the portion size small and our expectations even smaller.

My fussy-eater loves to drink milk, does this matter? 

Milk and dairy free calcium-fortified alternatives like soy are an important source of calcium. After a child's first birthday, drinking too much milk can displace other important nutrients (like iron) served at meals and snacks.

How much milk should my child drink per day and any tips on how to manage milk and solids during a fussy eating season?

The general guideline is too aim for no more than 500ml or 2 serves of cow's milk per day from 12 months of age. You can always discuss this in more detail with your child's GP or paediatrician if you're worried.

Here are the recommended serves per day of milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives:

  • 1-2 years: 1-1.5 serves
  • 2-3 years: 1.5 serves
  • 4-8 years: 1.5 (girls) and 2 (boys) serves

*1 serve of milk is one cup (250ml)

Krissy is a long-time friend of Wild Indiana and I'm so glad to share her expertise with you! Well Mama, I hope our chat has been helpful. Now I'm gonna have to work at distracting myself at the dinner table! 😜  

Disclaimer: Krissy is a qualified family nutritionist. The information provided is for general educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Families should speak to their health care providers for personalised advice before making changes to their child's diet.

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