Making food fun for fussy eaters

02 June 2016
Family lunchtime

Introducing new foods to your child can sometimes be a challenge. If your dinner table is a bit of a battleground, these tips might help!

As your child grows and develops, it’s important that they eat a variety of foods to make sure they get all the essential nutrients and vitamins they need. Introducing your child to a healthy, balanced diet will also help encourage healthy eating habits as they grow up.

Children can sometimes be fussy about what they eat – what they willingly eat one night may be met with outright refusal another. But the good news is, most kids grow out of this phase. I’m sure all of us remember some foods that we didn’t like or want to eat as a child, but have since grown to enjoy (or endure) them. Offering a variety of foods to your child, involving them in food prep and mealtimes, and making food fun can help combat fussy eaters.

Involve your child in the food prep

  • Take your child to the supermarket and let them help you choose which fruits and vegetables to buy. Engage their senses – let your child smell and feel the fruit and vegetables as you choose.
  • Involve your child with basic food prep – for example, ask them to tear up the lettuce for the salad or help you set the table.
  • Why not grow some herbs in your garden and let your child water and take care of them?
  • Keep snack and mealtimes regular. Keep healthy snacks in the house and give your child a choice about which ones they’d like. Healthy snacks might include vegetable sticks, fruit skewers, yoghurt and homemade popcorn. Your child is sure to enjoy listening to the popping sound of the corn kernels in the pan, and the watching the magical transformation into popcorn!
  • At mealtimes, try introducing a new food alongside ones that you know they already like.

Ways to make food fun

  • The way you present food to your child can really help – make their plate look colourful and inviting with a variety of food for them to try.
  • Offer your child food that’s fun to eat like corn on the cob. Or get them to help you decorate a pizza with vegetables – try creating a smiley face!
  • Finger food such as carrot, cucumber and pepper sticks are fun to eat and a great alternative if you’re child isn’t keen on the texture of cooked veg.
  • It’s important that your child learns about a healthy diet and associates food with fun. You could ask your child to draw a picture of their favourite food and tell you about it, count out different types of berries together into a bowl or make up stories and sing songs when preparing food together.

Here's a video from Bupa Australia - how to make rabbit rice cakes!

How you can set a good example

  • Make mealtimes a time for you to sit down as a family without the TV or other distractions.
  • Set a good example by eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet – children will often learn by example.
  • Encourage your child and praise them, but also try to recognise when they’ve had enough and don’t pressure them in to finishing everything on their plate.
  • Think about what advertisements your child sees – advertising is everywhere, particularly for foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Try to be mindful of this and where you can, limit how much exposure your child has to this type of advertising.
  • Offering two courses gives your child more chances to try new foods. Even if your child hasn’t finished their first course, still offer the second one. And if the second course is a pudding, remember to make it clear that this isn’t a reward for eating the first course; it’s just another chance to take calories in and try another type of food.

Finally, don’t be disheartened if your child leaves food on their plate or refuses to eat something new – it’s important to keep offering foods to them as it sometimes takes a few tries for children to accept them. New tastes and textures may need to be offered between five and 15 times before your child will accept them – so don’t give up too soon!

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available for your loved ones when you need it.

Dietitian at Bupa UK

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