While some children are absolute dreams when it comes to mealtimes, roughly 50% of all children ‘eat too little’, their parents believe. And this is according to Dr Christopher Green, from his book called Toddler Taming, A Parents’ Guide to the First Four Years (Random House).
Below we introduce ideas from two books about feeding a fussy eater – some of them overlap and they are intended for you to take and use in your unique situation with your toddler:
Toddler Taming (Dr Christopher Green, Random House):
1. Avoid disorganised, disturbed, noisy mealtimes – your toddler should sit and eat with the rest of the family, but if this is impractical, a parent should sit next to the child and feed her before the main family meal.
2. Your toddler should ideally be given a variety of well-balanced foods – however, if she dislikes variety, then a repetitive but nutritious diet is perfectly acceptable. After all, she’s the one who has to eat it, not you.
3. Adult eating habits should be encouraged – but it is no disaster if your child decides to return to the main course after having polished off her pudding.
4. Use labour-saving cooking ideas – because it is hard to stay calm when your wilful toddler refuses a dish that has taken hours to prepare.
5. Gently encourage a child to eat – NEVER force.
6. Once it is obvious that the child is not going to eat any more, wipe her hands and face clean and allow her to get down from the table – whether this is after five minutes or half an hour, don’t worry about it. If your child is dawdling over her food, leave her to dawdle without an audience after a reasonable amount of time has elapsed.
7. Display no anger if food is not eaten – put the untouched plate in the fridge and bring it out later on request. If your child refuses a meal, she must not be allowed to top up on milk, chips and the like.
Babies and Toddlers, How to survive them (Jane-Anne Hobbs, Zebra Press)
1. Work out what your responsibility is – provide your toddler with a variety of healthy foods, set times for mealtimes and snacks, and lay down guidelines about table manners. What she eats from the nutritious variety you present to her, and how much she eats, is up to her.
2. Be assured your toddler will not starve – when she becomes hungry enough, she will eat, and she’ll eat exactly what and how much she needs – as long as she’s not tempted by unhealthy options.
3. Acknowledge your toddler’s right to be picky – it is important to respect your child’s wishes. She is perfectly entitled to her own likes and dislikes. The challenge is to accept preferences and find ways of working around them.
4. Remember, your toddler has her own internal pressures – no child is born without an appetite. Your child’s food desires are driven by her appetite; when she needs to eat, she will.
5. Don’t coerce your toddler – the ‘clean plate’ policy is something from the past. Don’t ever force your child to finish what is on her plate. Try taking the pressure off completely, and see if she abandons her hunger strike.
6. Accept that your toddler might not be hungry – if she’s been snacking all day for some or other reason, it’s only natural that she might not be hungry.
7. Cut down on milk and juice – your child’s tummy may be full and she may not even register hunger pangs. Consider limiting milk and juice to a safe intake and her appetite might improve dramatically!
8. Ask yourself if your toddler’s really suffering – if your child is not underweight for her age, if she has tons of energy and is having regular bowel movements, there is very little chance that she’s not getting the nourishment she needs.
9. Try to make food fun – even the most reluctant eater can be lured with interestingly presented food, or even a picnic in the garden instead of lunch at the table!
We hope that these collection of tips at least gives you a point from which to start addressing your child’s eating habits. You may even find that your child is completely ‘normal’ and you were actually holding unrealistic expectations.
The good news is that food-fights need not be part of your daily routine!
Words: Loren Stow
when we know better… we do better
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