Fussy eating is normal, but it can be hard to handle… in fact, it can drive mums down-right-crazy!
Most of the time fussy eating isn’t about food – it’s often about children wanting to be independent. As a Consultant Paediatrician and a busy mum of two, Dr. Deb Levy is well versed in children’s eating habits. Here’s her advice for managing fussy eaters and making mealtimes more enjoyable for the whole family.
Make dinner time fun
Create faces or animal shapes out of their food. Your toddler may find it funny to eat the dinosaur’s “tail”, or the pirate’s “eye”, even when it’s really a carrot or a blueberry.
Upgrade their seat
If you have a toddler, give them their own cutlery and bowl to help make them feel grown up. Move their high chair to the table, or invest in a booster seat. By giving your toddler their own seat or place at the table, and including them in your dinner time conversation, they’ll associate eating healthy food with fun family time.
Create a buffet
Children like to assemble their own food, so you could lay ingredients out in bowls and let your child fill and fold their own wraps or choose their favorite toppings for their home made pizzas.
Think quality, not quantity
Fruit and vegetables are important at this age, as they contain important nutrients like vitamin C and folic acid, so offer some with every meal. Don’t worry if it doesn’t all get eaten – any amount is better than none. Have realistic expectations – for example, you can ask that your child tries all the food on the plate, or takes a certain number of mouthfuls. If your little one won’t eat anything at all, you could try Blackmores Toddler Milk to help support your busy toddlers’ nutritional needs and help ensure they receive important nutrients and vitamins including proteins, prebiotics, iodine, iron, zinc, and calcium.
If your child is fussing about food, ignore it as much as you can. Giving fussy eating lots of attention can sometimes encourage children to keep behaving this way. Sometimes your child will refuse food just to get a reaction from you. When this happens, they are often just testing the boundaries of their independence to see what you’ll do.
Smuggle in some fruit and veg
Puree vegetables and sneak them into sauces. Use sauces on homemade pizzas, with pasta, or for dipping carrots, bread sticks or even little fingers into. Fruit smoothies, or frozen fruit on a stick are a big hit with kids. They’re cold, sweet and make a mess! What more could a toddler want? Try watermelon, mango, kiwi fruit and banana diluted with water.
Cook with your little one
Give your toddler an apron and encourage them to help you in the kitchen. Most children enjoy tasks like squeezing fresh orange juice or cracking eggs. Being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite and they may be more likely to eat the food that they’ve helped prepare.
Make it social
Look for opportunities for your child to share meals and snacks with other children – it’s likely they will be more willing to try a food if they see their friends enjoying it.
Set a good example
It’s tempting to offer your child treats as a reward for eating their dinner but if you offer fatty, sugary or salty snacks as bribes, you’re giving them the message that eating the healthy food is a chore – something you have to endure before you get to the sweet bit. It’s important to encourage positive associations with healthy food so it’s better to offer other rewards such as playtime or stickers.
Here’s to less battles and happy family meals!
Dr Deborah Levy, MBChB(hons), Dip Paed, FRACP(PEM)
Dr Deb Levy is a Consultant Paediatrician with a unique holistic approach to health
and wellness. She began her medical training in South Africa and was awarded her
primary medical degree, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, with first class
honours. She went on to work in the United Kingdom before immigrating to Australia
where she completed her specialist paediatric training. Deborah was admitted to the
Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in General Paediatrics and
Paediatric Emergency Medicine. She has been a children’s doctor for over 12 years
working at Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead,
regional hospitals across Australia and in a private clinic in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs.
Her experience includes general paediatrics, paediatric emergency medicine, paediatric
intensive care, antenatal consultations, newborn and delivery room medicine. She is
adept at managing acutely unwell children and complex medical conditions.
During her work as a doctor within the conventional hospital system, Deb realised she
wanted to offer more than a disease focused approach. Believing she could develop a
different approach, she began studying natural and traditional ways to optimise child
wellness. She took a particular interest in the power of food and lifestyle as well as
herbal medicine and studied integrative nutrition in the US. Her treatment includes
personalised healthy eating programs and she is open to incorporating other healthcare
modalities working in conjunction with qualified naturopaths, herbalists and dieticians.
She endeavours to combine these modalities with up to date medical research to provide
safe integrative management plans.
Dr Deb is committed to providing the highest quality of paediatric care for families who
want a holistic approach to child wellness and a strong therapeutic relationship with their
doctor. She is also the mum of two young girls who thankfully sleep like angels and who
eat all of their broccoli… sometimes!