Do you have a fussy eater?
Inevitably, every parent will face a stage in their child's life when they are not interested in eating. Why is your child not eating? Is he/she sick, jealous of a new baby, attention seeking, tired? There can be many factors, or it could be as simple as their growth pattern. Children's food needs vary depending on their rate of growth and level of physical activity.
"Eating should be an enjoyable experience for both you and your baby. As parents we have the great opportunity to provide the platform to encourage the development of healthy eating habits in our children. By providing your baby with an eating experience that offers lots of opportunities to try new foods, tastes and textures
incorporated into 'family meal times', you will help your baby to grow into a child that enjoys a variety of healthy foods." Samantha Berry, Paediatric Dietitian
To overcome some of the frustration of a child who will not eat a parent should aim to:
- Remain calm - seeing you react is fascinating to them, but only makes you annoyed and tired
- Make meal times happy times and encourage children by telling them how well they are eating (even if they have not had much).
- Involve your children in the growing, shopping and/or cooking process
- Set an example by eating healthy yourself
It is important to avoid force-feeding your child. This only increases stress and decreases appetite. If children refuse to eat, take the food away and offer it later. A child may really dislike a particular food. Provided they are eating a variety of other foods do not force them to eat.
Babies do not need a lot of conflicting tastes when they are experimenting with food, so there is no need to add extra sugar, salt and pepper etc to their meals. As your baby grows up into a toddler and beyond you can make their meals more exciting by trying some of the tips below. If your child generally eats well, but will not eat vegetables and fruit try to:
- Continue to offer vegetables to your child as part of a meal, eventually they will start to eat them
- If at first your baby or child refuses to eat a certain food try again the next day or leave it a few days and try again. Research shows that repeated exposure to new foods is necessary for a baby/child to learn to enjoy a new flavour. New foods may need to be tried a number of times to increase familiarity and increase the chance of it becoming a favoured food
- Experiment with different sauces to make the food taste better
Get excited when preparing and offering new vegetable varieties
- Hide vegetables in stews, soups, salads, juices ?creamed, mashed or finely chopped
- Mix foods together if a child likes to pick out their favourite food
- Give a variety of good foods that children like - avoid salty or spicy foods
- Cut food into pieces that children can hold, and provide spoons for soft foods, allowing them to feed themselves.
Remember to feed children when they are hungry. Do not wait until they are too tired to eat. They need to eat frequently. Snacking and nibbling often, on healthy foods will ensure they get their daily requirement of nutrients and sources of energy. And very importantly, when possible, try to schedule 'family meal times', so everyone can eat together and your children can learn from your example.
Below are two recipes that are favourites with even the fussiest of eaters! The first can be offered to your baby from 9 months of age, using the basic recipe stated. For your toddler+ you may add 1 chopped onion, 1-2 rashers chopped bacon, 1 cup canned three-bean mix, ?clove chopped garlic, and a bay leaf for fuller flavour and a meal for the whole family.
Thick Tomato Soup
1 teaspoon butter
1 stick celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 fresh tomatoes, or 1?cups canned tomatoes (salt-reduced)
1 cup pasta
1 cups water
1 cup mild cheese, grated
Heat butter in a large saucepan, add celery and carrot to pan and stir for 2 minutes. Steam tomatoes and peel to remove skin, then chop and add to the saucepan with pasta and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover. You may need to add more water, as desired. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add cheese and stir through until melted. Allow to cool. Mixture should be thick with a creamy texture. Keep refrigerated, or freeze. Makes approximately 5 serves. Total preparation time: 30 minutes.
The second recipe is also suitable from 9 months of age. For older babies a tasty alternative is to add soft, cooked fruits like apple, pear or sultanas to the rice when serving.
Yummy Rice Pudding
1/3 cup Arborio or short grain rice
2 cups milk or soya milk
2 teaspoons sugar
Place rice in a saucepan with milk and sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently until rice is thick and creamy.
Remove pan from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top to serve. Following initial serves add a little more milk to moisten the rice. Can be served warm or cold. Keep refrigerated. This recipe is unsuitable to freeze. Makes 4-6 serves.