Trying to persuade a fussy child to eat is one of the most frustrating tasks of parenthood.
It was a very common subject discussed when parents attended my NHS clinic, how can I get my children to eat fruit and veg??
I would always empathise as I remember one of my daughters and how stressed and hopeless I felt when she left yet another plate of vegetables.
I would explain to parents many children can go through a phase of refusing a food especially vegetables. It is a normal part of development and often a way of children showing independence.
There is also a name for it …………Neophobic.
Working with so many parents I have picked up tips along the way and would like to share my top 10 to help with your little ones and get them enjoying more fruit and veg
Be a good role model, children copy our behaviour.
If they see us eating crisps and drinking coke they will want to copy us. If you are a parent who struggles to eat fruit and veg yourself try not to let your body language show your dislike for them.
Offer small amounts first, whole fruit is not always tempting.
Make them funky, prepare them differently
(Some children for example won’t touch carrot cooked but will happily eat it raw)
Try with a dip
Try fresh fruit in sugar free Jelly pots (children will enjoy making these)
Top fruit pieces with yogurt
if all else fails you can blend up some as a pasta sauce.
Get creative, I have made these with children:
Orange faces - slice the orange and use raisins for eyes and red pepper for mouth and half a tomato for nose. This is excellent for teaching body awareness, make a game about parts of the face. Questions like, “where is your nose?” “Where is your mouth?” “Where are mummies eyes?” Then name them when you both eat them.
Peanut butter apple sandwiches - slices of apple with peanut butter spread in between.
Chop and thread them onto skewers for a colourful kebab (great for their co-ordination)
Try serving vegetables with apple sauce, hummus or a yoghurt-based dip to help neutralise a bitter taste.
Get children involved:
Not only in preparation but also shopping.
Talk about it, how it feels, this will be good for their language development as you can increase their describing words.
They are more likely to try a food if they have seen it, felt it, smelt it etc.
Let them see the whole fruit first. I have found children love to see a fresh pineapple before it is cut up and most of the children I have worked with love the taste of it.
Note, Use a plastic knife for safety.
If they refuse it, get them to put on a plate and pass around to any visitors or your partner when they return from work.
Make theme days, try Fruity Friday or Vegetable Wednesday. Make a big announcement, make it fun, eating shouldn’t be boring.
Be persistent and keep offering, parents often give up (and I was one of these.) You need to offer foods between 10-15 times before children will accept.
Don’t force children to eat fruit and veg as you don’t want to create negative feelings with these foods.
You want to create positive food habits for LIFE.
Don’t forget these:
Pulses count as vegetables and are a useful source of iron, zinc and fibre - Try hummus or tinned butter beans.
Remember tinned, frozen or fresh are all good sources of vitamins and minerals - Tinned should be in natural juice.
Give the fruit and veg another cool name like;
Super Hero Spinach
Migdet trees like Joe Wicks Or cut cucumber into splits and call them “crocodile jaws”
Cherry tomatoes can be “juice squiters”
Hope you have found my tips useful.
If you are struggling with a fussy eater and want some positive management strategies to help, then please contact me