Zoe Bingley-Pullin is Australian Avocados’ resident nutritionist and a passionate supporter of the Eating My Colourful Vegies and Fruit early childhood learning program designed to get toddlers eating a wide range of foods to ensure healthy eating habits for life.
Here are her top tips for parents who want to encourage their fussy kids to taste nature’s rainbow.
1. Get kids involved!
Ask your child to help with the preparation of a meal as they will make food a fun thing and your child is more likely to eat a meal he or she has helped to make.
2. Invite friends to tea
By inviting one of your child’s friends over for a meal, you will help create a feeling of festivity at the table and this often encourages a fussy eater to overcome some of their usual barriers around certain foods.
3. Lead by example
If you’re a fussy eater then you may have to make peace with the idea that your child may be a fussy eater too. Be a good role model and try to expand your diet to show your little one that you enjoy a wide variety of foods.
4. Keep a schedule
By doing this you will be setting regular habits for eating and establishing rules around what is expected at meal times.
5. Add colour and fun
Food needs to look interesting to entice toddlers so include different colours and textures on their plates and ask them what they like about the foods to help reinforce positive associations with healthy foods.
6. Encourage self-feeding
Being actively involved in eating, rather than sitting passively receiving food, will encourage your toddler to take an interest in the food he or she is being served.
7. Find a food your child likes to eat from each food group
If your child doesn’t like milk, try offering yoghurt or cheese.
8. Change the scenery
For example, why not try introducing new foods at a picnic or offer cold meats, bread, raw veggies (grated) and salad on a mixed plate.
9. Be realistic
Your child is not a small adult and you can’t expect them to eat like an adult. Remember that kids need to try something several times to establish a taste preference so make sure you let them try something several different ways over time to help get them accustomed to the flavour.
10. Don’t force your toddler to eat
Serve child-size meals, three small meals a day and one to two small snacks in between.