There’s a rumour going around that toddlers are fussy eaters. Word on the street has it that they resist even the most succulent bites, the most delectable appetisers, the tastiest treats. Expect to see deliciously tender beef stroganoff on the floor, sumptuous ricotta cheese and baby spinach leaf lasagne sliding down the walls, French onion soup dripping from the ceiling. Have your baby bibs at the ready; they will see more of your lovingly prepared pies, pastas and pureed parsnips than your child will. That said, this is just a rumour.
The truth is, that while toddlers can be a little picky at times, who wouldn’t be? After all, they don’t get to pick their mealtimes, nor, indeed, their meals. Furthermore, children have way more taste buds than adults, and so are much more sensitive to all the new tastes, textures and flavours you’re throwing at them. So what to do about a fussy eater, and how to help create positive eating habits for your child?
Here are some of the classic mistakes that we make with our children’s meals and how to avoid them:
- Giving your little one bland foods. Your toddler may be sensitive to different tastes and flavours, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from giving them seasoned, tasty meals. While you’re right to avoid giving them too much salt (not necessary, creates a salt dependency and young children can’t process it well), treat them to a range of herbs and spices that will not only make meals interesting, but also help them to enjoy a greater breadth of flavours later in life.
- Getting stressed out. It’s easy to get frustrated when all you want to do is make sure that LO is eating properly – but if your toddler picks up on that stress, they’ll only feed off it and become anxious themselves. Moreover, they may begin to associate mealtimes with stressful interactions, which will only exacerbate any eating ‘issues’ and further stain that baby bib.
- Asking too many questions. While toddlers might be frustrated at being given food they haven’t chosen at a time not of their choosing, it’s still best for those decisions to be made by Mummy or Daddy. If you ask open questions like ‘What would you like for lunch?’ you may never get a straight answer. Equally, timing those meals could be dictated by playtime. Instead, do your best to remove distractions at mealtimes, decide on the meals yourself, and try to stick to a routine that will be easy to follow.
- Praising overeating. Sometimes we are so anxious for our toddler to eat well that we start praising their appetite. You might catch yourself offering a gleeful ‘Well done!’ because they’ve managed to clear their full plate or eat much more than usual. The problem here is that your toddler will start to use to your voice rather than their appetite as a guide on how much to eat. They may start ignoring their sense of satisfaction and begin overeating as a result. So try to trust your child more – if they haven’t eaten much, simply remind them of when the next mealtime is. If they sometimes eat less than you’d expected, that’s ok – who does always eat the same amount from one meal to the next?
With a bit of luck, a little patience, and some perseverance with those yummy dishes, we can vanquish those rumours of fussiness once and for all.