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Food wars

The vast majority of children go through a stage where they are picky about what food they eat. A lot grow out of it in their own time, quite often when they have reached school age as they are more curious about trying new foods and don’t feel the constant need to assert their independence by saying, ‘no.’ But, what if you still have a picky eater like my son and you are staying awake at night with worry? How on earth do you handle it and turn it around?

For starters, there is no need to worry. Even if your child eats the same thing every meal, every day. Chances are they will be getting all the nutritional needs he or she needs over the course of the week. As long as your child is eating something, believe it or not, they will not starve. Still not convinced? Perhaps you will find some of my tips for introducing new foods to picky kids useful.

Do not give your child too many options at mealtimes. Instead of perhaps asking, ‘what would you like for a snack?’ Give them a narrower choice. Like ask, ‘would you like an apple or a banana?’ You are basically giving your child a choice, in their eyes, without giving them a choice. Try placing a new and different food on their plate, along with the normal food they eat. This way they may try it out of curiosity but you are not forcing it upon them. Just don’t draw attention to it and that way, there is no pressure on them and you aren’t making a big deal out of it. When you do offer your little one a new food to try, just give them a small portion. That way if they like it you can give them more, rather than overwhelming them from the off. Plus, if your child doesn’t eat a whole plate of the stuff, you are more likely to become annoyed with them about the waste.

Help your child to understand the benefits of good nutrition and a balanced diet, but I don’t mean give the poor kid a lecture! My son has a plate he was given at school about healthy eating. It has pictures on it from all the different food categories that he should be consuming. Another great way to educate is to place a chart on the fridge and give your child a sticker each time they eat something from a particular nutritional section that is new to them. Bolstering new eating habits is a great idea, so why not involve your child in food decisions? In the supermarket, collect a selection of foods in a basket and get your child to pick which one he or she would like for their tea. If you have a garden, growing your own produce is a good way of getting your kids involved too.

Sometimes, we have to employ more clever techniques, so if increasing your child’s consumption of fruit and veg is your top priority, perhaps whizz up a smoothie? Making your own is so much healthier than the bought ones. If your child enjoys pasta and sauce, many vegetables can be whizzed up into a puree to, ‘hide,’ them.

All in all, it is important to keep mealtimes an enjoyable and positive experience. Don’t force your child to eat – this has be shown to cause eating disorders later in life. Also, remember your child’s tastes may develop on their own as they go through school.

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