- Category: Food
Do you have children who only like to eat boring, repetitive food?
Have you started making separate meals to cater to each child’s preferences?
Is dinner time stressful?
I asked a group of parents for their advice and have put together 10 top tips for fussy eaters. Inspired by real families, the aim is to encourage children to try new foods and bring the fun back to mealtimes.
1. Get The Kids Involved!
Let them join the fun. When you do the food shop, ask them to choose some ingredients, create recipes and plan the weekly meals with you. It also helps to give them jobs to do such as chopping or seasoning while you’re cooking- they are more likely to eat something if they have had a hand in creating it.
2. Eat Your Meals Together
Eat together as often as possible. You’re a great role model for your children. If you eat together at the table and eat the same meal, children will see this as the norm. If everyone eats separately, they won’t have the opportunity to learn by observation. It's not always possible for busy working families to have dinner together every night, but it’s imperative that whoever cares for your children at meal time sits down and eats with them. Meals are something you can all enjoy together.
3. Simplify Breakfast
Keep breakfast simple and repetitive. Weekday mornings are generally pretty stressful and adding arguments over food into the mix only makes life harder. Once you find a healthy breakfast option your kids like, serve it every morning, exactly the same. No need for variety when you are all in a rush.
4. Let Them Choose
Add the element of choice. If, for example, you are planning to serve salmon, potatoes and veg, let the kids choose from several options. Ask them if they would prefer peas or sweet corn or did they want mashed or roasted potatoes. Sometimes a little variety is not a problem.
5. Consistent Approach To Food Refusal
This is probably the most important advice I can give you. Firstly, if you know that the main meal you intend to serve isn’t a favourite with the kids, make sure they get a healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch. Then, if they decide they don’t like something you serve with dinner, you know they have already eaten well earlier in the day. Then if they become fussy, explain that it’s their choice to refuse dinner but that there will be no alternative offered and nothing to eat until the next day. Consistency is the key here. Don’t give in and make them something else; otherwise, you’ll be making four different meals every night...
6. The 5:2 Method
Try my 5:2 method at dinner. Spread out across the week, I make five familiar evening meals that I know my kids like, then on the two other days, I'll make new or less familiar dishes. The kids enjoy mealtimes as, more often than not, they are eating firm favourites but then they do get to experience new flavours at least twice a week. I’m gradually building up the range of foods they like without them feeling anxious about their meals. They know if they try something new one day, that the following night will more than likely be a favourite of theirs.
7. Try A Grazing Table!
Grazing tables. And by this, I don’t mean a wedding buffet-style banquet; more simply, it’s foods laid out across your eating space that the kids can dig into at their leisure. You might have to lay some ground rules- perhaps tell them they must have 5 different things on their plate, and at least 2 must be fruit/ veg, but other than that, they can choose as they wish.
8. Swap Your Roasts For Mash
Be flexible about the way you serve ingredients. If sweet potatoes were available at the local market this week, for example, but they are not your kid’s fav, change the way you cook with them. Instead of roasting as wedges, could you mix them with normal potatoes and make mash? Your kids might not want to eat pan-fried fish, but a fish pie with mash and cheese might work better. And so on...
If you have fruit haters, try smoothies instead. You can disguise any fruits they wouldn't normally eat in here, and adding ingredients such as yoghurt or milk often helps win the kids over too. (Plant-based, dairy-free options work just as well.) Kids can get involved in making these too. My Fussy Eater has some awesome recipes for kid-friendly smoothies.
10. Hot Meal For Lunch?
Change up the time of day. Kids get more tired as the day goes on. Tired kids are fussy kids. If you know the main meal planned for that day might not be a hit, switch the day around a bit and cook at lunch. A tired kid is much more likely to eat a sandwich and a piece of fruit than they are to try your latest weird and wonderful recipe.
Hopefully, these tips will go some way to taking the stress out of mealtimes, allowing you to enjoy food and family dinners again! Don't forget to share your fussy eating success stories on Instagram and tag @thepostnatalnanny. I'd love to know how you're getting on! x
A little Bit About Me...
Welcome. I’m Bryony, mother of three, qualified teacher, and postnatal specialist. I work in South Lincolnshire, Rutland & Cambridgeshire providing 1:1 postnatal & parenting support.
I’m here to help you find your feet as a new parent and support you with your postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, weaning, play, emotional well being... the list goes on. If you are seeking advice about anything and everything parenting, contact me or find me on social media.