About the author: Suhayla is one of the primary content creators and contributors for the MMM team. When she’s not writing for us, she’s busy being a Mama to two young children and also is a pharmacist in one of London’s NHS Trusts. She particularly enjoys writing about islamic parenting, promoting wellbeing for mums and is an advocate for breastfeeding, after a challenging journey with her first. Want to reach out? Send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At some stage of your toddler/child’s life, they may well develop the need to be a bit of a fusspot. For those of us who are lucky, it’s a phase and lasts a few days or weeks, but for some of us we just can’t seem to shake it. It’s frustrating and often the cause of a lot of distress for us Mamas, when we slave over the stove making exciting and balanced meals only for them to be rejected time and time again.
We’ve all been there and so here are some nuggets of advice we’ve rounded up which will inshAllah help those cheeky monkeys be on their way to being superstar eaters.
1.Division of responsibility1
Change your mindset – as the parent you choose when to serve a meal and what food to serve, but you allow your child to choose what they eat from the plate and how much they eat. This approach is grounded in psychology and encourages intuitive eating and allows your child to develop their hunger cues. It’s definitely scary at first, not telling them to eat and letting them rely on their own senses to work it out, but trust them and let them grow and eventually with a more hands off approach they get there.
2.Love it, Like it, Learning it2
Place all the foods you can think of into 3 different categories for your child as follows:-
- Love it – foods they will eat most of the time
- Like it – foods that are hit and miss and they will sometimes eat
- Learning it – foods they generally won’t eat
When serving a meal or snack, try to present a variety of these foods including 1 food they love, 1-2 foods they like and 1 they are learning. Eventually through exposure they will learn to accept more foods and try more things, they may not love everything but that’s okay – even we as adults don’t love all foods.
One of the pros of this method is that it ensures that at every meal there is something for your child to eat. Remember less is more with children – better to serve smaller portions to reduce food waste and also to encourage them to try something else on the plate. For more information on this method check out @feedeatspeak and https://veggiesandvirtue.com/
MMM Top Tip: Serving foods in a deconstructed manner can also often help with fussy eating as it allows your little one to see what the food is in a recognisable form.
3. Get them involved at every stage
Encouraging children to get involved in food preparation – from putting away the groceries to the preparation of meals and even serving their own portions. This involvement can often reduce any fears they have and encourage them to see it as something fun that they have been a part of creating, giving them a sense of ownership. By involving them in the process, it often does help them get that one step closer to trying a bite or if you’re lucky, eat it all up!
4. Add a food they love to a new food
Mixing flavours and adding a food you know they love can help you to encourage your child to try something new – for example, if they’re averse to eggs but love a certain vegetable or cheese, try making a cheesy vegetable omelette rather than serving a plain one.
Related: Positive Parenting Series: Mealtimes
5. Make it look exciting and fun
Presentation is key – we all love things that look nice and food is no different. Play with shape cutters, make animal faces and for kids over 3 you can even use different styled food picks. It will take a bit longer to put together, but it may pay off if it helps your child to eat those veggies! Remember you don’t have to do this for every meal or snack, just try it out here and there and see if it makes any difference.
6. Take the pressure off
Try not to force your child to eat something if they don’t want to. We know this one is definitely easier said than done. Forcing kids to eat can create negative associations and put them off even more – try to keep calm.
MMM Top Tip: If they don’t want to eat breakfast don’t force them as there may be a variety of reasons e.g. not hungry/tired – you can balance it out and serve a bigger morning snack.
7. Keep serving foods which get refused
Don’t give up when your child doesn’t eat something. It takes exposure to something over and over again for them to ‘learn it’ and eventually like it. So keep serving it on the plate. Let it sit there and one day you might see it being picked up and being eaten inshAllah.
Again to reduce food waste on this one, we would suggest keeping the portion small – one stalk of broccoli is enough to expose them to it; you don’t need a whole plateful!
8. Family Meals
Eating together is a great way to role model and encourage the building of positive food habits, your children are more likely to try new foods when they see you eating them. Try and eat together whenever you can to encourage building these habits.
9. Let them explore the foods
Another way to take the pressure off is to use foods in play and encourage them to see the food in a different way. For example, allowing them to use their senses – feel it, smell it, hear it, taste it and chew it.
10. Serve dessert with the meal (not after it)
For those kids who love their sweet treats, this can normalise their opinion of foods and help to create a healthy relationship which will hold them in good stead as they grow. Serve a small amount of their dessert (whether it’s fruit or chocolate cake) with their meal, let them choose how and when they want to eat it. You might think they will always go for the sweet first, but you will be surprised, sometimes they don’t and savour it until the end.
Remember, once they’ve finished the sweet, you can say something along the lines of ‘that’s all the dessert we have for today, you can have some more tomorrow.’
And there you have it – our round up of some of the best tips we’ve tried and tested to help overcome those fussy phases. Stick with it Mama, it will get easier!
Do you have any advice or experience to add? Leave us a comment below