10 tips to stop fussy eaters
Writer and presenter Fiona Faulkner is the founder of Toddler Chef and mother of three young children. Following her experience of fussy-eating, she was inspired to write her first cookbook – based on the recipes and techniques that totally transformed her kids’ eating habits. Here, she reveals her ultimate tips…
I’ve always enjoyed cooking but when I became a parent, it seemed that all the kids recipes I found focused purely on cupcakes and tray bakes. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bake (frankly I’m a baking geek) but let’s face it, kids don’t need much encouragement to eat a banana muffin. A huge part of my success in getting my own kids to eat well stems from encouraging them to help me with lunch and dinner as much as baking and desserts. That’s one of my biggest tips right there.
We all have a comfort zone when it comes to cooking. Mine is taking fruit and veg and making them exciting for kids. But if you’re not excited about your 5-a-day, how can you expect your kids to be? So my second ultimate tip is simply to set the best example you can. Don’t forget: good eating habits have to be learnt, and therefore taught. I wish you all the best on your own foodie journey with your kids. In the meantime, here’s what else I’ve learnt:
BECOME A MARKETING GURU
Kids eat with their ears, eyes and head. If they don’t like the look or sound of something, they probably won’t eat it. Making sandwiches? Never underestimate the power of a cookie cutter…
NEITHER REWARD NOR PUNISH WITH FOOD
I base this on a theory called the ‘over-justification hypothesis’. The premise is that kids enjoy something less if they realise they’re being rewarded for eating it - one to remember next time you’re bribing with dessert…
OFFER REALISTIC PORTION SIZES
A simple but overlooked premise: little tummies need only little portions.
DON’T FALL INTO THE ‘EVERY LAST SCRAP’ TRAP
By forcing kids to eat ‘every last scrap’ you’re encouraging them to over-eat as well as ignore those vital ‘I’m full’ signals from their brain – not cool!
INVITE FOODIE FRIENDS
You’d be amazed at what your child will eat when they see their best friend tucking into the same with gusto. Peer pressure at its most effective.
ENCOURAGE ‘SILLY SUPPERS’
Create a sense of empowerment by allowing the kids to decide what you’ll have for dinner. Ice cream all round? This is a PERFECT opportunity to discuss how certain foods make us feel if we indulge in too much of them.
EMPLOY THE DISTRACTION TECHNIQUE
Unorthodox perhaps, but I’m a great fan of offering (healthy) snacks in front of a kids’ favourite TV show (it’s the ‘hand-to-mouth’ action). Carrot sticks and hummus anyone..?
DON’T LET THE SPANISH INQUISITION TAKE OVER THEIR BIRTHDAY PARTY
In other words don’t create issues around food (or succumb to ‘performance parenting’ and AVOID ALL SWEETS!) Your kids don’t need an alpha mom on their 6th birthday party – they just want the toot (and once upon a time, you did too – remember?) Embrace it.
DISCOVER YOUR CHILD’S PERSONALITY
Some research suggests that kids who are sensitive to new surroundings, textures, or even loud noise can be particularly reticent to try new foods. Consider the role your child’s personality has to play when it comes to eating.
TAKE THEM SHOPPING
Not always easy or practical I know - but try involving your child in the grocery shop – e.g. “shall we have broccoli or carrots with our shepherds pie tonight?” They’ll feel emotionally invested, and therefore more incentivized to eat.
Extracted from “25 Foods Kids Hate and How to Get Them Eating 24”
(New Holland UK) by Fiona Faulkner.