INSIDE: Encouraging your kids to eat when they don’t want to can be a real challenge. If you have fussy eaters in your family and you’re struggling to get them to eat, today’s post is for you. I’m sharing 9 great tips guaranteed to get them to clear their plate!
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Dealing with fussy eaters…
I recently asked some of my fellow mum friends what their biggest struggles were when it came to meal planning. Some said they struggled with coming up with ideas of what to cook. Some said they wish they had more time to plan and prepare their meals. Others said they would start off full of good intention but found it hard to keep the momentum going. Of all the comments made there was one struggle that came up time and time again; knowing how to deal with fussy eaters and finding ways to encourage their kids to eat.
And do you know what? I feel their pain. My youngest is pretty good at trying new things and he’s always loved his food. But it wasn’t the same for my eldest. Now nearly 20, he’ll pretty much eat whatever you put in front of him and to be quite honest, I don’t know where he puts it! But when he was younger, mealtimes weren’t so easy. A lot more persuasion was required to convince him to finish his dinner and some nights it would take forever.
Getting fussy eaters to eat…
Whether it’s a case of liking something one day and not the next or that they just don’t want to eat no matter what you put in front of them, persuading your kids to eat when they don’t want to can be a real challenge. So just how do you encourage your fussy eaters to dive in? Below I’m sharing a few of the strategies that worked for me plus some suggestions from some of my fellow foodie bloggers. If you’re struggling to get your kids to eat, hopefully, these tips will help you too!
Related: Cooking with Kids – Five Ways to Encourage Your Child to Help in the Kitchen.
#1 | Limit snacks before dinner
It’s easy to get into a habit of giving your kids a snack when they get in from school. But if mealtimes are a struggle, allowing them to fill up on snacks before dinner isn’t going to help. Whilst my youngest loves his food and isn’t a fussy eater per se, if he raids the cupboards before 5pm it’s definitely harder to get him to finish his dinner. Now, instead of giving him a snack beforehand, I’ll have a tempting but healthy dessert waiting for him as an incentive to eat everything on his plate. Nine times out of ten, it works!
#2 | Try one new recipe at a time
If you have fussy eaters, giving them too many new meals to try in one go can completely overwhelm them. On adding new dishes slowly, Melissa from Everyday Savvy says: “start with one new recipe a month, and eventually increase to one per week if you find your family adapts well. This helps you prevent a lot of unhappy kids or adults at the dinner table and prevents waste.”
#3 | Put everything in the middle of the table
Why does food always seem more exciting when it’s in the middle of the table and you can help yourself? Us adults like being able to choose what we put on our plates and it’s the same for our kids. Putting dinner in bowls in the middle and allowing your kids to choose what they want can really help encourage them to eat. Not only do they have control over what they eat, they get to choose how much of each thing they want. Both of my boys (and my husband!) love it when I serve dinner this way.
#4 | Use reverse psychology
Leslie from What’s Working Here cleverly uses reverse psychology to get her son to eat. She says: “we use reverse psychology at the dinner table a lot. We like to tell our son that we don’t want him to eat all his vegetables or meat because it will make him grow and then we will have to buy him all new clothes and shoes. You’d be surprised how often he will actually play along, even as he’s gotten older, and say look I’m eating the asparagus. To which we reply, “Oh, No! Now you’re going to get big and strong!” Weird, but it works.” Not yet tried this tactic…give it a go, it might just work for you too!
#5 | Puree the vegetables
If your kids aren’t keen on eating their veg, there are a few ways you can disguise them. Chopping them up small so they’re hardly visible can help. But the most effective way I’ve found to combat fussy eaters is to puree them and turn them into a sauce. Pureeing vegetables and adding it to the sauce of a spaghetti bolognese or a lasagne is a great way to get them to eat their 5-a-day. I used to do it all the time for my youngest when he was first getting into trying new things and I’m sure that’s why he likes his veg now!
#6 | Don’t give them a choice
It sounds harsh and it can be hard to follow through when they’re at the table crying, refusing to eat. But, when the only option is to eat or go hungry, if they’re genuinely hungry, chances are they’ll eat. On not giving them a choice, Leslie from What’s Working Here says: “there is no need to make multiple meals to cater to your children. Make what you’re serving the only option. Especially if it’s something you know they like. I hear “I’m not eating that” even when it’s food I know my child has eaten and enjoyed. I don’t argue about it, just serve the food.”
#7 | Cut the food into fun shapes
My youngest loves most foods, but one thing he can be fussy with is sandwiches. He’d bring his lunchbox home from nursery and guaranteed the one thing he hadn’t touched would be his sandwich. That was until I started cutting them into fun shapes using cookie cutters! I bought a giant car cookie cutter, a dinosaur and an aeroplane. Each morning I’d let him choose what shape he wanted his sandwich to be and do you know what? Most days he would eat it! If it’s sandwiches your fussy eaters don’t like eating, why not try this too!
And for other great tips on how to make food fun for kids, check out this post by Christine from Normal Life Mom. She has some brilliant ways of making food fun guaranteed to encourage all fussy eaters to dive in!
#8 | Be understanding of sensory issues
Melissa from Everyday Savvy says; “there is a big difference between a child just preferring pizza every night, and a child who has a sensory disorder that cannot handle the textures of raw vegetables, or even a food allergy that causes discomfort. Be aware and work around those issues as you are able.” If you’re really struggling with getting your child to eat certain foods and there’s just no persuading they may well have sensory issues. If you’re unsure don’t be afraid of seeking advice from your doctor or paediatrician.
#9 | Finally, don’t give up
It can be incredibly frustrating when no matter what you do, they just don’t want to eat. But don’t give up. Persevere, keep going and whilst it might not feel like it, you will get there. On keeping the faith, Tasia from the Frugal Farm Girl says: “the best thing you can do is to not give up. I know it’s hard, many times I wanted to throw in the towel on any new veggies but persistence is key. Just keep doing the best you can and keep trying those veggies. Experts say it takes 10 times or more exposure to the food before a child feels comfortable and accepts it.”
Meal planning tips for fussy eaters…
Getting our fussy eaters to enjoy their food and eat what we put in front of them can be a real challenge. And sometimes it can be incredibly hard to not give in and just let them eat peanut butter sandwiches for the fourth night in a row. If you’re struggling with fussy eaters, know that you’re not alone. And that things do get better as they get older. Remember I said that my eldest wasn’t keen on finishing his dinner when he was younger? Well, now pretty much eats anything and everything and he never stops eating!
That’s it for this post! Do you have fussy eaters? What’s your top tip for getting them to eat? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…
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