We love the fact that they’re eating the nourishing food that’s supporting their growth and development, but just as often, our beloved young eaters don’t want the delicious nutritious food anywhere near their mouths.
What is the difference between a Fussy Eater and a Picky Eater?
Many of us experience difficulty in feeding our children at some stage. Often, children refuse to eat specific groups of foods (like vegetables, or fruits), which leaves us worried and stressed during mealtimes.
Most of us spend a lot of time trying to get our little ones to eat better, and wonder how much of the battle against new foods was because of the “power struggle” or a “real difficulty” in eating new foods. A helpful insight we would like to share with you is that there is a difference between a ‘picky eater’ and a ‘fussy eater’.
Picky eaters are very selective about what they eat. These children often reject many ‘new’ foods they are not familiar with. This can end up in children eating a limited variety of foods. But the good news is that this is usually just a phase while they begin to develop their “food preferences” or ‘’favourites’’. You can help this by gently encouraging your child to try new foods; this is the first step toward creating new eating habits. Researchers have found that tasting foods repeatedly (anywhere from 7 to 15 times) will usually result in acceptance of a new food. Note: this doesn’t mean forcing a child to eat, but rather gently, calmly encouraging them to taste something, for example, you can say to your kids: “You don’t have to like it, you just have to taste it.” This method has worked for lots of foods (broccoli, beets, salad, cauliflower, lentils) which previously picky eater kids now happily eat.
Fussy eaters, on the other hand, change their minds, they will reject certain foods one day, but then happily eat them the next. Apparently, inconsistency is a pattern in child behaviour, one that most of us often let slide when our kids are small. Our time does come when, as a parent, we will have to become lovingly firm – If they’ve liked it in the past, they have to continue eating it today.
Mommies, you will also have to be mindful of the fact that a kid’s fussiness about food is a stage which often arises as kids are often testing limits, by turning food into a power struggle. Being firm and consistent avoids these power struggles. Having a “one menu offer” is the best solution vs. the “short order cooking” option, as kids soon adapt — leaving everyone a lot happier as a result!
So, is your child a picky eater, or a fussy eater? Tell us your story and how you deal with it – we would love to hear from you!
Hints & Tips on coping with a picky/fussy eater:
- DON’T GIVE UP – it’s normal for kids to go through phases of liking/disliking things, even different types of food. However frustrating, it’s part of growing up, it’s all about patience and persistence if your child really doesn’t like something you made for him/her. Moms, be willing to try the same foods, 3 to 20 times until you succeed. Sooner or later they’re bound to give in - and if they don’t, maybe they’ll never be a fan – and that is all OK, just know that you have done your best and you’re a great mom.
- REINFORCE GOOD HABITS – Try to come up with ways to encourage their interest in food, support and motivate positive eating habits over time. It’s incredibly important to get kids wanting to eat good and healthy foods on their own – by making mealtimes fun and special, as a means of embracing new flavours, textures and ingredients. Moms this can be done by helping them to step outside their comfort zone and try new tastes and textures.
- BE A ROLE MODEL – Mom, children learn through observation. They learn through what they see from their parents’ behaviours and actions as they copy and learn from you – so show them how and lead the way! Embrace variety of foods at mealtimes – once they see you eating something, they’re far more likely to try it. Sit together at the table and enjoy a meal as this will encourage them to try different foods – Moreover, it will allow you to bond with your little one, and that is always special.
- MAKE COOKING A FAMILY ACTIVITY – Let your little one help you make dinner. Not only can this be fun for them, but it is a good way for them to spend time with you. Moreover, they get to feel the food, and taste it as they prepare the meal with you. Not only does this allow them to be involved in the process of making dinner, it also creates much-needed fun and interactive participation between the two of you. Imagine how happy and pleased they would be to eat what they’ve created!
- BECOME VEGETABLE SMART – Mom, there are so many tricks you can do to outsmart “the vegetable police” (i.e. fussy/picky eater) so that they can eat their healthy vegetables. Try making things like vegetable muffins, lasagne, etc. You will be amazed at how creative you can get by “hiding” the vegetables that your kids don’t like.
- STOP STRESSING MOM – You are already doing so much for your little one to ensure that they get the best while becoming the best that they can be. Making sure that your child eats right and gets all the nutrition they need to grow up big and strong, is admirable – it just confirms what you already are – the most loving and best mom! Have fun with food and try to think long term. Define what eating right means to you, for your family? One thing is for sure, you and your kids will get there. After all, your child has a lifetime of eating ahead of them and countless opportunities to experience food, multiple times each day. So if lunch becomes an epic fail–move on, and prepare them a healthy snack in a couple of hours. Small steps.
5 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- Dinner time is often chaos – embrace it! Create a routine that will work for you and the family.
- Your child is not an adult, so cut them a bit of slack and have patience with him/her and be the loving mom that you are.
- If a kid grows it and cooks it, they’ll probably eat it! – encourage them to cook with you in the kitchen and get their hands “dirty”. The good thing is that you get to make something together. #bondingtime
- Focus on what they do like, not on what they don’t – this will encourage them to eat more and become less picky.
- If everyone’s eating it, they’re more likely to try it – kids learn from observation. If you do it, they too will do it.
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