Try A Little “Peer Pressure”

Peer Pressure

Using a little positive peer pressure would have to be one of the best ways to get your picky kid to try some new foods or even just to eat more of what they like!

Invite other children of a similar age or just slightly older (especially if they are good eaters!) around for a meal. Children have a strong desire to fit in so are more likely to try to copy their peers.

Studies show that children often copy their peers at mealtime, so if they see their friends eating something different or eating a full plate of food, they are more likely want to join in and try those foods themselves.

While it’s great for your kids to see you eating fruits and vegetables, the impact of their peers doing so is even more powerful.

Parents often tell me that their little fusspot is apparently not nearly so fussy at child care or kindy when eating in the company of other children.

Try it! Let the others set the example.

And praise them for what they attempt!

Timing, Routine and Small Tummies

Timing

How are you going with feeding your picky and fussy kids? Still stressed? Here are a few more tips for coping with young picky eaters.

Routine:

Children thrive on routine. Try keeping main meals and snack times at roughly the same time each day. Children have a strong need for rituals and for what feels familiar whether it is a bedtime routine, meal time routine or using a favourite plate. Some form of daily routine may provide a picky, fussy eater with predictability and security.

Your busy toddler may need some “quiet time” before meals. This will help them calm down a little and have time to divert their attention from play time to eating time. A table setting and hand washing routine may help with this.

Timing:

Children need to eat frequently to sustain their high energy levels and rapid growth so small but frequent nutrient dense “mini meals” may be best for picky, fussy kids. This approach will maintain optimum blood sugar levels and keep the grumpiness, pickiness and tantrums at bay. Every parent knows that a hungry child is generally not a happy or co-operative child.

Try offering their main evening meal at a realistic time. Children are usually hungry around 4.30 or 5pm. Offer the main evening meal then. It is more likely to be eaten. A healthy snack or a small snack portion of the adult meal can be offered when the whole family sits down to dinner later.

I found this early evening meal strategy really helpful with my three when they were little. They were always hungriest in the afternoon after school or kindergarten so I offered a fairly substantial nutrient dense, protein and vegetable meal or “snack” at that time rather than have them fill up on other snack food. They still took part in the family evening meal but had slightly smaller helpings. For us, this resulted in much less discussions and arguments around food.

Respect Tiny Tummies:

Children’s small bodies have small tummies and fast metabolisms. A young child’s stomach is roughly just the size of their fist so serve small portions initially. They don’t need much to get full so may only want small amounts at a time but get hungry again quickly. Top up their plate with more later if they want more. Finger foods are also popular and will allow a toddler some of their desired independence.

Just a small amount of food on the plate at a time will be far less intimidating and more likely to be eaten, especially if it is a new food.

If your little one is struggling to eat what you have served on their plate, separate out a small portion for them to eat. For example, two bite sized pieces of meat, one bean and two carrot circles.

What have you found to work for you? Email me if you have found great strategies that have worked for you.

Are you a Good Role Model?

Family Meal

Children are very keen observers of what significant adults in their lives are doing. As well as parents, this will include grandparents, extended family members, family friends and even older brothers and sisters.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself

  • Do I eat regular meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner? If not, how can I expect my child to do so?
  • Do I always eat healthy nutrient dense fresh foods? If not, how can I expect my child to?
  • Do I pick at food and not eat particular vegetables? Your child will mimic this. If mum or dad is a picky eater and isn’t willing to eat the new foods, neither will the child.
  • Where do I eat meals? In front of the TV? At the kitchen bench? On the run driving to work?
  • Does my family sit together and enjoy the majority of breakfasts and evening meals together?
  • Do I share the same meal as my child or do I expect them to eat something different?

When it comes to healthy eating, the best thing you can do as a parent is to be a good role model. Don’t expect your child to eat foods that you won’t.

What your child learns about food begins with you. You may not realise it but you are continually educating your child about food on a daily basis, especially during the first 10 years or so of their life.

Research shows that most picky eaters grow out of this stage when they are ready and particularly where the closest role models (parents) have healthy eating habits for them to emulate.

Children want to be “mini you”, be just like mum and dad. Most parents notice, comment on and smile at imitative behaviours such as talking on a pretend mobile phone like mum or dad BUT have you made the connection between imitation of your own eating habits and your child’s eating habits?