Supernanny's tips for fussy toddlers

Supernanny Jo Frost's tips on fussy eating toddlers

Supernanny Jo Frost is back with her latest book, Jo Frost's Toddler Rules, to help all mothers out there struggling with sleep, feeding, and general behaviour of our toddlers.


Here is an extract from her book on how to deal with fussy eaters.

Refusing to eat a variety of food

Your three-year-old son refuses to eat anything but breaded chicken strips and carrot sticks. When he was younger, he would eat anything, but for the past three months he won't even try a bite of anything else.

Step Back:
Take a breath and don't react.

This is a situation where you need to ask yourself some tough questions.

Do you understand the importance of your child eating a variety of protein, carbs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and fats throughout the week and the quantities he should be eating?
How many times a week do you create balanced meals?
How many times do you offer your child a choice of eating something else and he says no, so you give him chicken strips and carrots?
How many times have you served something else and stuck to your guns, telling him, "That's the only thing you're getting to eat," then when he's refused to eat it, you've taken the plate away— and later given him something he wanted from the pantry?
How many times have you felt upset and didn't want to persevere, so you just gave in?
What do you want to achieve?
Your child eating well- rounded meals with appropriate variety throughout the week.

Step In:
You're the one who has been serving him chicken strips and carrots every day. So your game plan is to do the complete opposite of everything you discovered you've been doing.

Rejecting vegetables

You know the importance of your two-and-a-half-year-old eating vegetables. But a lot of what you serve he says he doesn't like. Just this week, he rejected tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and cabbage. You've heard that children often don't like vegetables, and you're afraid if it keeps going like this, he'll end up not eating any.

Step Back:
Take a breath and don't react.

How many times have you served a particular vegetable?
How many different ways have you cooked it?
Are you mixing it into other things?
Serving it raw as well as cooked?
When he says he doesn't like it, are you giving in and giving him something else because it's easier? Once he says he doesn't like it, do you never serve it again?
What do you want to achieve? Your child eating a wide range of vegetables.

Step In:
When young children say, "I don't like this," parents think that means always, forever, and in any form whatsoever.

What they really mean is "I don't want to eat this," which can be for a number of reasons: they don't want to eat it today; they don't like it in that particular form; they're hoping you'll ask them what they do want to eat and give that to them; they want to get down and play. Plus children this age are very fickle — one day they love apples and the next week they'll tell you they hate them.

You have to believe me when I tell you that it takes at least 12 or 15 times of consistently eating a certain food in a variety of forms for a child to establish a true dislike. At this stage it's about helping him develop his palate, which generally doesn't fully happen until he's around five. Then when he says he doesn't like something, it's most likely a true dislike, particularly if it's a few things, not every vegetable.

I'm concerned that parents expect problems with vegetables. I think a lot of it is created by the media — they say there's a problem, so now you expect a problem. If you simply expect him to eat vegetables, then it tends not to become an issue.

To help him develop a taste for different kinds of vegetables, experiment with serving them in different forms. You'll discover that he likes some vegetables mixed in with other food. Chop them up finely and mix them in with rice or pasta or sauce, for instance. Start off with root vegetables—rutabaga, carrots, and sweet potatoes— and mix other root vegetables in with those.

Make a stew that mixes veggies with meat. Some he may prefer raw and others cooked. And don't take a vegetable totally off your list. Try it again in another form in a couple of weeks.

When you serve a vegetable, treat it casually — don't focus on the vegetable. You don't want to set up a battle of wills. Tell him he needs to eat his meal and then he can get down and do something fun.

If he resists, here are my tips:

• Don't replace the problem food with another one.
• Compromise — have him eat a certain amount of it, but only negotiate once.
• Talk about something else.
• The average meal for a toddler takes about thirty minutes. If you are there for more than forty minutes total, he can get down. But do not give him anything else to eat until the next mealtime.


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