Have family mealtimes become a battleground? Sasha Brown of Community Family Care has some tips to encourage your children to get involved and try new foods
Fussy eaters and the ongoing mealtime battle can be a nightmare for many parents and can lead to some stressful mealtime experiences.
You want them to eat something nutritional but all they want is chocolate or anything but fruit and vegetables. It is a natural response for children to fear unknown foods and go through stages of having different food preferences, so here are some tips to help manage this.
If a lot of pressure is put on children to eat certain foods it can be stressful for both you and them if things don’t go to plan, and this can lead to negative experiences associated with that food. Encouragement to eat and try new foods needs to be a positive experience for everyone involved in order for it to be successful. Don’t stress about the small things: so long as your child has had enough to eat, is it the end of the world that they haven’t finished all of their peas? Sometimes simply trying food is a really positive start.
Encourage children to help with cooking. Giving them manageable tasks that get them involved with mealtimes can encourage them to want to try the ‘fruits of their labour’. Involve them in picking meal choices: we all have days where we don’t quite fancy some things and crave others so if your child picks what they fancy it can aid success.
Make it fun
Make trying new foods and eating more fruit and veg a positive experience for children – start early on and make it a regular family activity to try new things. Positive exposure to new foods on a regular basis encourages children to like and try new things. Try dipping fruit in chocolate or yoghurt or cutting veg in to fun shapes for a different way of presenting foods to children. Get sneaky and hide fruit and veg in things that your children will readily eat – sweet potato chips are a great alternative to chips and a spag bol is a great way of blitzing a load of veg into the tomato sauce.
Set a good example
Eating together can help set a good example to children. If you’re a picky eater yourself children will assume that is normal mealtime behaviour and will imitate this as well. Get involved in trying new foods with your children and use older siblings to help by reassuring younger children that the new food is yummy. Review how you get on with different foods and remain positive – you can always try and introduce them again at a later date.
For more info:
Community Family Care, based at Staunton, Gloucestershire helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviours at home. The work its staff carry out includes peer mentoring and life coaches for young people, and family support programmes.
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