July 21, 2014

A fussy toddler is the age old nemesis of a parent.

As a survivor and a nutritionist, my tip is to prepare for this battle well ahead of time:

  • Aim for a pregnancy and breast feeding diet that is highly varied and comprises a wide variety of foods and flavours (although don’t expect miracles – fear of new foods is a natural, protective response)
  • Expose your baby to food aromas – get your cook on and fill the house with the wonderful smell of herbs, spices, baking and broth
  • Allow your baby to see parents and siblings enjoy a variety of different foods and food situations
  • Create a positive family food environment – relaxed, social, calm, regular routine, aesthetically pleasing environment, without distractions from TV or other media devices
  • Encourage your baby to be involved with the family food environment – seat them at, or near the table, let them watch food preparation, encourage play with utensils (plastic cups, spoons and bowls)

Once solids are introduced, continue with these strategies but also:

  1. Repeat exposure to new foods (10 – 20 times may be necessary to develop acceptance of new foods)
  2. Don’t use food as a reward (this can have a variety of undesirable repercussions)
  3. Don’t bribe or punish a child for not consuming food of finishing their plate
  4. Offer foods of a variety of different texture and encourage them to become familiar with them the best way kids know how – with their hands! Squishing, squashing and rubbing food all helps children become familiar with, and accept, different textures. Draw the line at throwing or other unproductive behaviour and as they get older you can guide their table manners.
  5. Allow a child to regulate their own appetite (don’t force feed, but try to keep eating to meal/ snack times, served food in regular settings, away from the TV; snack size meals every 2-3hrs is appropriate for small children)
  6. Offer a child the foods you desire them to consume when they are most hungry (allow them to eat their vegetables before the rest of their meal to develop associations with satiety, not as a reward/bribe system)
  7. Praise a child for tasting and/or trying a new food, even if they don’t eat it
  8. Comment on the enjoyment of food you are consuming – “this carrot is really tasty,” I like how crunchy it is,”
  9. Keep items out of sight that you don’t want to promote consumption of (put the biscuit tin in the cupboard), but make available items which you want your child to consume (put the fruit bowl on the bench)
  10. Role model the behaviours you want them to adopt – you can’t expect your child to snack on fruit if you are snacking on chips!

 

Do you have any tips to add to this list? SHARE with us in the comments below.


  • No tips to add but will definitely be trying some of these!

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  • This was an interesting mini article. Thanks for posting!

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  • Thanks. I’m struggling with a fussy 4 year old. The one thing that works best for us is all sitting at the table together – really hard to do with 3 busy kids and a hubby who works late though.

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  • Great read. I like to introduce new foods to all the children who come to our house. Kids will try anything with their cousins and friends. I like to give kids what they like most of the time leaving out veggie they don’t like but replacing them with lots of what they do like. We like to include the little ones in the cooking process wash the veggie’s is fun for them. Cutting fruit and veggies with plastic knives supervised is fun and teaches them responsibility with sharp items. We also have the little ones cut the herbs with their scissors. They get a surprise when they smell the greens whilst cutting them. Most of the time they will nibble on the veggie/fruit that they are cutting.

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  • I also used to make fruit animals, trains etc made out of fruit, they soon learn to love fruit.

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  • Definitely have a bunch of fusspots (my sons) who could use a few of these points

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  • Some good advice, I just keep offering and hope eventually my 3yo tastes will change.

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  • Thanks again for this article; have shared info with friends.

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  • Great post with some very useful and helpful ideas.

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  • I wonder if this would work on hubby – he is worse that all the kids!!

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  • If they don’t like it then we don’t push it and I agree never punish or bribe if they won’t eat it.

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  • this is a fantastic article! just what I need to read

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  • Good article with some useful information. Being a good role model is the most important when introducing new foods and when eating.

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  • We would always serve our daughter vegetated at dinner time from around 12-18months (carrot and broccoli are our staple veggies) one day after months and months of leaving the broccoli she ate it and asked for more. She ate mine and my husbands broccoli serving that night. Carrots she started taking from the bench while I was preparing them for dinner and the same happened with capscicum. The foods were/are always offered but never forced.

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  • Good tips thank you for the info

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