Feeding / 8 November, 2022 / Annabel Karmel
Fussy eating is often cited as one of parents’ main concerns when it comes to weaning their little ones. I totally understand, I was blessed with not one, but three fussy eaters, but I came out the other side and so will you – I promise!
In fact, so familiar am I with the, let’s say, challenge, that I have ended up dedicating thirty years of my life to help encourage fussy eaters to develop healthy eating habits.
I realise that it can sometimes feel like you’re the only parent with a picky eater, but this simply isn’t the case. In fact, around 90% of children go through at least one lengthy phase of fussy eating.
Instead of getting overwhelmed at each mealtime, there are plenty of effective ways to deal with a fussy eater to help add harmony to mealtimes.
It’s been scientifically shown that fussy eating can be attributed to genetic susceptibility. So, when your little one turns their nose up at brussels sprout it could be down to predisposition, as opposed to pickiness.
Given that fussy eating may be down to genetic makeup and therefore not an example of defiant or difficult behaviour, next time your child refuses to eat something that is repugnant to them, move on, don’t make a fuss, and simply try to introduce that food in a different format at a later date.
However, I do appreciate that the balance is so fine that it can feel like walking a tightrope sometimes. On the one hand you don’t want to force your little one to eat something repugnant to them, but on the other hand you shouldn’t pander to pickiness as it will only escalate fussiness and deprive your child of the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop.They say that you need to try something fifteen times to learn to tolerate it, but I say that it doesn’t have to be in the same format, you can offer something fifteen different ways until they find the one that they like. In this instance, patience really is key!
Often, it’s toddlers who become picky because, at around 18 months, they start trying to assert their growing sense of independence, and, unfortunately, food is one of the easiest ways to do so.
My son Nick used to refuse to eat anything that remotely resembled a fruit or vegetable, which is what lead me to create my much-loved chicken and apple balls! They quickly became a firm favourite, and he was totally oblivious to the hidden goodness within those delicious little morsels!
Getting kids in the kitchen to take an active interest in what they’re eating is essential for their general health and wellbeing. Particularly if you have a fussy eater, as they’re far more likely to eat something that they have prepared themselves than something you’ve put in front of them.
And last but by no means least, education is key! By teaching your little one about the providence of food and explaining the journey taken before it ends up on their plate, they’re far more likely to take an interest and try it. It’s for exactly this reason that I cooked up my brand-new children’s cookbook Where Does My Food Come From? The book helps curious minds discover the weird and wonderful, and often unexpected, fun foodie facts out there as a way of encouraging them to not only appreciate the food in front of them, but where it came from.
Food is one of the great joys of life and the good news is you can help to prevent picky eating in even the fussiest of little eaters. Here are my top 10 tips…
Giving your children a limited number of foods will only escalate their fussiness and deprive them of the essential nutrients they need to grow and develop. You could try playing a game and blindfold your child before introducing a new food and ask him to guess what it is.
Veggies can be a tricky one. Some kids can spot a hidden mushroom a mile off, so sometimes the best thing is to be upfront about fruit and vegetables and educate them on their nutritional benefits and why they are so good for you. Giving them facts could make them more interested about what they are eating.
Give lots of praise when they eat well or tried something new. Yes, this may mean that you must ignore some of their bad behaviour and instead focus your attention on their good behaviour, but by doing this, mealtimes are likely to be less stressful and more enjoyable.
Reward schemes like a sticker chart in the kitchen can work well with older children. Make the chart yourself together, perhaps decorating it with pictures of their favourite characters. Give your child a sticker for eating new foods. When they have collected a few stickers, reward them with a prize to incentivise them.
Most children adore cooking and tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs are well within the capabilities of a young child. It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite.
Without going to unnecessary lengths, try to make your child’s food not only taste good but look good too. Make mini portions in ramekins, chicken skewers or thread bite-sized pieces of fruit onto a straw. Salad lollipops are a great way to try lots of different foods and textures in one go.
Help children understand where the food they eat comes from by learning about plants, farming, and fishing. A day out to a local farm, educational tv show or book like my new cookbook Where Does My Food Come From? can all help change your child’s perspective of food and get them more excited about trying new things.
Growing your own food doesn’t require a huge garden or lots of equipment, get your kids growing their own herbs or sprouting seeds in little pots on windowsills. Growing cress in an eggshell is a simple, inexpensive, and quick way to take your little one from planting to eating.
Eat together to show your fussy eater how good the food is – your little ones love to mimic; it’s how they learn. Eating together and sharing the same, or parts of the same, meal can create a positive atmosphere all around. When your little one sees their family enjoying their meals, it can be enough inspiration for them to give it a go themselves.
If you’re worried that your fussy eater isn’t getting enough nutrients, then you can always sneak them into their food! If your little one loves tomato sauce, then you have to try my version with 5 hidden veggies. It’s great on pasta, as a dipping sauce, or served over meat. My Hidden Veg Bolognese and Hidden Veg Smoothie are delicious too!
Article by Annabel Karmel, author of Where Does My Food Come From?
This is the first-ever picture book from international best-selling author, Annabel Karmel, illustrated by Alex Willmore. It takes little ones (and grown-ups!) on a journey of food discovery with crafty activities, fun experiments, mind-boggling foodie facts and yummy recipes.
Find out how eggs, cheese, tomatoes, pasta, strawberries, honey and chocolate are grown and made, and enjoy the fun, step-by-step food activities in each section too. Best of all, Annabel includes two fantastic, child-friendly recipes for each food. They’re perfect for getting kids to create and eat wonderful meals with their favourite food – and for getting fussy eaters to try new foods too.
This book will help children learn where their favourite ingredients come from and develop a life-long love of good food!
Annabel Karmel’s Fun Bake Animal Cupcakes