Fussy Eaters

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Healthy eating starts when your child is in the womb and eating habits are formed during childhood. Exposing your child to a range of nutritious foods early on will make them more likely to eat well and be healthy throughout their childhood and into adulthood. Healthy eating does not mean denying children or adults the foods they enjoy, but eating habits are exactly that: habits.  If you provide your child with healthy, nutrient-rich foods they will develop a taste for these foods.  Similarly, if you give your child fizzy drinks, sugary snacks and salty ready meals and take-aways, this is what they will like.  It is important to be a good role model for your children as they will mimic your eating habits.  Good health is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child - they are relying on you to provide it.  To make sure children get all the energy (or calories) and nutrients they need for growth and development, they should eat as wide a range of different foods from the four main food groups as possible (the four main food groups are: 1. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods; 2. Fruit and vegetables; 3. Milk and dairy foods; 4. Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein).

Encouraging children to try more fruit and vegetables is very important at this early stage of their lives.  After weaning (between 6 and 12 months), infants are particularly open to trying new flavours and textures.  Children exposed to a wide variety of foods during this time are less likely to be fussy eaters. It is a normal part of development for children between 1 and 5 to develop a fear of new foods (neophobia) as they are becoming familiar with different tastes and textures. It is important to be patient with children at this time as they are trying to work out what they like.  

Top 10 Tips for dealing with Fussy Eaters:

1.  It can take children 10-20 exposures to a new food before they accept it.  So if they refuse something the first few times, be patient, remove the food without comment and try again in a few days' time.

2.  Encourage family mealtimes - children learn by copying adults and other children.

3.  Avoid distractions - sit at the table and remove toys and turn off the TV and computer games.

4.  Make the mealtime a fun and relaxed environment so that your child will want to be a part of it.  Don't rush mealtimes.

5.  Encourage self-feeding and give your child small portions.  Large portions can be overwhelming and your child can always ask for more.

6.  Stick to 3 regular meals a day, with 2 snacks evenly spaced between meals.

7.  Avoid too many high-calorie snacks - your child may demand the snack and refuse meals.  Encourage fruit and veg as snacks.

8.  Avoid bribery and rewards, especially food rewards.  This will make the reward food "good" and the food that the child is being rewarded for eating "bad".  Reward your child with positive attention instead.

9.  Check fluid intake - 6-8 glassses (120 ml) a day are sufficient (3 of which can be milk, the rest should be water or heavily diluted squash or diluted 100% fruit juice).

10.  Recognise your child's signals that they are full.  Young children, particularly toddlers, have small appetities which can vary on a day-to-day basis.  Your child may eat very little one day and then lots the next.  Do not force your child to eat.