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Fussy eaters


                               

Many children go through phases of refusing to eat certain foods or at times refusing to eat at all. This is particularly common in children up to the age of five years, but may occur at any time. It is often a way of showing independence (the terrible twos) and is a normal part of growing up. Although it is very worrying, children will not harm themselves if they don’t eat enough for a short while. Children will usually eat enough to keep themselves going, so try not to worry unless your child is not putting weight as quickly as they should or is obviously ill. If you are worried about your child’s weight and growth, you can contact your doctor for further advice.

The best way for your child to learn to eat and enjoy new foods is to copy you, so try to eat with them as often as you as you can so that you can set a good example.  Children are very quick to pick up on your own feelings about food. Perhaps you are on a diet, or have a weight problem, or are just very keen to eat healthily. Your child may well be picking up on your anxiety and/or using mealtimes as a way to get attention.

Things you can do:
  • Offer regular meals and snacks as this is better than letting your child “pick” through the whole day. Young children often need 3 meals and 2-3 nutritious snacks

  • Eat at the same time as your child if possible, as he will learn from you. Try and make meal times enjoyable social occasions

  • Sit together at the table. Use bright coloured plates and cups. Present food in fun and attractive ways.

  • Try and eat in a calm, relaxed area, without the television or toys as children get easily distracted. 

  • Try not to rush a meal, as your child may be slow to eat, yet try not to let meals drag on for too long-half an hour is about right

  • Give your child the same food as the rest of the family, and eat your meals together if possible.

  • Give small portions and praise your child for eating, even if they only manage a little.

  •  If your child rejects the food, do not force feed him. Just take the food away without comment. Try to stay calm even if it’s very frustrating.

  • Don’t leave meals until your child is too hungry or tired to eat.

  • Your child may be a slow eater so you may have to be patient.

  • Don’t give too many between-meal snacks. You could limit them to, for example, a milk drink and some fruit slices or a small cracker with a slice of cheese.

  • It’s best not to use food as a reward, otherwise your child will start to think of, say, sweets as nice and vegetables as nasty. Instead, reward them with a trip to the park or promise to play a game with them.
     
  •  If your child fills up with juice or squash between meals and refuses milk or snacks, try gradually reducing the amount of juice or squash they have, diluting it well with water, and give them a small amount of food.  Children sometimes get thirst and hunger mixed up and say they are thirsty when they are actually hungry.
        
  • Try to make mealtimes enjoyable and not just about eating. Sit down and have a chat about other things.

  •  If you know of any other children of the same age who are good eaters, ask them for tea. A good example can work wonders, as long as you don’t talk too much about how good the other children are!

  • Children’s tastes change. One day they will hate something, a month later they will love it.
As long as your child eats some food from each of the five food groups-even if it’s always the same old favourites-you should not need to worry. Gradually introduce other food choices or go back to the foods your child did not like before and try them again. Remember, as long as your child is active and gaining weight, they are getting enough to eat, even if it doesn’t look like it to you.


Which foods to give when?
  • Give small portions of food at meal times. If these are finished, praise your child and offer more. Do not take food away and offer a completely different meal if the first one is refused.

  • Finger foods are easier to manage as a child can feed himself. Try sandwiches, cheese slices, and cream cheese on crackers, chips, fish fingers, vegetable slices and pieces of fruit.

  • Try offering new foods with known favourites. It is a good idea to offer at least one thing you know your child will eat at each meal.

  • Fizzy drinks, squash and milk can fill a child up, as can crisps, biscuits and cakes, as a result they have a smaller appetite for food at meal times. AVOID GIVING SNACKS TOO CLOSE TO MEAL TIMES.

  • Milk is a nutritious drink but should not replace meals. Be careful not to let your child drink lots of milk in the day or at night.

FAQS

1)      How do I get a relative to stop giving sweets to my child?

Suggest they give a small book, pencil or other non-edible gift instead. If your child does have sweets, try keeping them to a special “treat” day, once a week. Remember that the number of times that teeth come into contact with sugar is as important as the amount of sugar. So sweets are best eaten in one go rather than over the course of an hour or two. They will do least damage to teeth if you keep them for meal times. For more information about caring for your child’s teeth ask your doctor.


 2)      What snacks can I give instead of biscuits or crisps?

You could try:

    -Raw vegetable sticks such as cucumber and carrots
    
    -A plain yoghurt with a banana sliced into it
    
    -A slice of toast with butter, hummus or a slice of ham
    
    -Some crackers, breadsticks with cheese
    
    -A bowl of cereal with milk
    
    -A piece of fruit


3)      I have heard that high-fibre foods are not suitable for young children. Why?

Foods that contain a lot of fibre (like wholemeal bread and pasta, brown rice and bran-based breakfast cereals) can fill up small tummies, leaving little room for other foods. This means that your child gets full before they have taken in the calories they need. Bran also prevents important minerals from being absorbed. It’s good for your child to try different varieties of starchy foods, but don’t use only wholegrain foods  before your child is five years old.


4)      My child will only drink sugary drinks. What can I do?

Frequent sugary drinks increase the chance of tooth decay. If your child will only drink sugary drinks, it can take some time to break that habit. Start by diluting them really well with water and offering them in small quantities, in a glass/cup at meal times.


 Ideas for nutritious snacks

Offer 2 or 3 each day

  •     Cup of milk with biscuit, cake or muffin

  •     Small bowl of cereal and milk

  •     Cheese and crackers

  •     Breadsticks, chapatti, pitta bread and cream cheese

  •     Small sandwich 
     
  •     Apple slice

  •     Bread toast with spreads such as jam, cheese, butter

  •     Milk shake or fruit smoothie made with milk

  •   Fruit pieces or vegetable sticks-for extra calories serve with yoghurt, cream cheese, butter
Although it is may be difficult thing to do, try not to show that you are worried or annoyed by your child not eating. If he does eat, show him you are pleased (smile and say “good boy”, “well done” etc). If he stops eating at a meal, try once to encourage him to eat a little more, if he doesn’t want anymore then take the food away without comment. It is a good idea for children to use their fingers to play with food. Do not worry if they make a mess! When your child eats well, offer a reward such as taking him to the park or spending some special time playing together. DO NOT OFFER SWEETS OR CHOCOLATE AS REWARD.

Snack check
 
Many snacks are full of the things that are bad for us- sugar, salt, fat and calories. So try and keep a careful eye on how many the kids are having. These tips might help keep the snack attacks at bay.
  •  Keep count: many people are surprised when they actually count up how many sweets, crisps, and biscuit s they get through. Keep count and you are more likely to cut down-which is good for your kids and for your purse too.

  • Do not forget that it is sometimes kinder to say no. we all love to give our kids what they want, but try to find different ways to reward them-stickers, or a trip to the park.
     
  • We all know too much fat is bad for us. But it is not always easy to tell where it is lurking. Cut down on snack foods as they are often jam packed with fat. Try and keep foods like crisps, buns, cakes, pastries and biscuits as occasional treats only.

 



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