Around half of all toddlers are considered fussy eaters, screwing up their nose at salad and pitching butternut pumpkin from their high chairs.
Establishing healthy eating patterns in children is important and can have a big impact on their everyday health, growth and cognitive development.
So, how do we avoid the daily food fight? Cancer Council Queensland has five tips to get parents started.
One, be a good role model: Children are very quick to mimic the habits of their parents – whether it’s the food they eat, the language they use, or their manners and demeanour. It’s helpful to eat the same foods you are serving your children and let them know how much you enjoy them. Speaking positively about healthy options will go a long way in helping your child enjoy their fruit and vegetables.
Two, introduce new foods in small amounts: While children are developing their sense of taste, their dislike for certain foods can often change. Routinely introduce small amounts of new foods by pairing it with foods they already like. If they don’t like a certain food, don’t despair. Often children will take a couple of tries before deciding whether they like a new taste.
Three, get creative: Many children are visual learners so it’s important to get creative if your child is not eating the healthy options you serve up. Take an extra minute to display their food in a creative way. Why not arrange their fruit into a smiley face on their plate or cut vegetables into different shapes? Also, try different cooking methods of the same food. For example, if your child refuses to eat mashed vegetables, try serving them boiled or roasted.
Four, avoid distractions: Before each meal turn down the TV and put away your child’s toys. Start involving them in meal preparations with activities such as setting the table or helping to put items into the salad bowl. By eliminating distractions and making meal time a family time, children will often become more mindful about eating.
Five, stay calm: It’s normal for children to be somewhat fussy when they are young so it’s important for parents to remain calm and not give up. Instead, create healthy meal routines that are enjoyable for your children and be consistent in your approach.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend four and a half serves of vegetables daily for children aged four to eight, and five serves a day for children aged nine to 11.
Follow these five tips to help beat the food fight and enjoy a healthier, happier lifestyle.
More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at cancerqld.org.au or call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.