It is an all too common scenario for new parents: you sit down at the table nervously poised with a spoonful of steamed sweet potato puree, only for your little cherub to pull a face, fold her arms and clam her little lips tight shut. Or even worse, to spit out or play with her food, making a mess but not actually taking in the essential nutrients she needs from your homemade or shop-bought meal.
So what’s the solution? Well each child is different but the main advice is to start early in cultivating a love of food, its variety of textures, colours and flavours and make eating a time for celebration! You may notice that your son/daughter is much more likely to ‘sparrow’ pieces of food off your plate than his/her own! Eating together should be a social occasion, so please do encourage this as much as possible. From a young age children can be involved in the kitchen in preparing simple meals, building their confidence around foods. A 6 month old can ‘stir’ from a highchair, whilst an 18 month old can make healthy cookies and sauces with you with care. Growing herbs and tomatoes or oranges on your balcony, garden or greenhouse is a great way to introduce children to where food comes from and to take care watering them each day and ‘harvesting’ them. Consider getting chickens as pets and to lay eggs too if your garden is large enough?
The takeaway message is: don’t make a big deal about fussy eating, that will only draw attention to it. Rule out any food intolerances first with a consultation with a qualified nutritional therapist such as myself and then try to offer as wide a range of food as possible. If your child doesn’t like it one day, fine, offer again later in the week and if he/she still refuses you can always blend it into a ‘vegetable’ sauce, a great way to increase vegetable intake in restrictive eaters.
Making smoothies together in the morning is a great way to bond over food. Start with a banana base and add milk if over 1 year old, some blueberries and pineapple chunks with ice and you have a healthy, nutrient-dense breakfast to share together. You can always dilute with filtered water if you are concerned about excess sugar intake.
Try to make all food look appetising and fresh. Home-cooked is best but there are some good brands out there to use on occasion if pushed for time. Always go for Organic and check the salt content, such as Organix and Ella’s Kitchen. Think of healthy variations on classic favourites such as fish fingers made with organic cod and ground almond crust or sweet potato wedges instead of chips. Get creative and your children will enjoy all the excitement!
If you would like a more personalised programme for your child or they have known or suspected intolerances or diagnosed behavioural issues around food, please book a consultation.
Karen Preece Smith at The Nutrition Guru