Wholesome Child : Wholesome Child full
21 20 If you have picked up this book in the hope that you can tempt your fussy eater (or eaters) to try new foods, you are not alone. Around 80% of the parents or caregivers I see in my practice are struggling to increase variety in their children’s diets. There are many – often complex – reasons why children evolve into fussy eaters, and it can be quite common. Around half of all toddlers can be classified as fussy eaters. Happily for most children, ‘fussy eating’ is a stage that they will grow out of. They will become more adventurous eventually! Unfortunately, the fussy eating period coincides with an important time in a child’s development, so leaving children to eat a diet of only white bread and pasta, for example, for too long isn’t a healthy option. The strategies we implement to deal with their food refusal, along with the food choices we offer them during this stage, can have a huge impact on how willing they are to try new foods and how their eating habits are ultimately shaped. Banish guilt The one thing that most parents are good at – especially mums – is feeling guilty. The last thing I want you to take away from reading this book is the feeling of guilt. None of this information is meant to overwhelm you or make you feel inadequate when it comes to feeding your child. There are countless reasons why children refuse their food and most of us are busy, time-poor parents trying to do the best we can for our children. Each family situation is unique and success with mealtimes must be measured accordingly. Some of you may have children who are initially fussy at meal times, but with gentle encouragement, may end up eating most of their food. Or perhaps your child may have only two vegetables on their ‘like’ list that they are happy to eat. If, after reading this chapter as well as the practical tips included in all eight not all hang on the shoulders of parents. Nature also has a part to play as food preferences are often hereditary and affected by genes. And finally, some babies are simply born with more tastebuds than others and are superior tasters. These children will naturally be more sensitive to certain taste sensations and are more likely to reject sour or bitter. Others, without the same tastebud density, will not be as reactive to different flavours. Even though babies, and especially those with heightened taste perceptions, will naturally reject bitter tastes such as spinach, zucchini or even broccoli, they can, with repeated offerings, come to love sour and bitter foods. How to train tastebuds right from the start The early years of a child’s life are the most crucial in setting up long-lasting eating patterns and behaviours. If we train a young child’s tastebuds to enjoy the natural flavours of foods without processed flavours and added sweeteners, we can avoid many problems later on. In the first two years of life, a child’s immune system is largely dependent on the foods they eat. Given the right nutritional start in life they are more resilient to illnesses, infections, allergies and even steps, you learn ways to increase the number of veggies to four, find a new lunch box meal (other than their daily cheese sandwich) and manage to add one to three main meal recipes into your child’s diet – consider that a great success. Perhaps you have a child who refuses to go near a vegetable and will only eat peanut butter sandwiches and store-bought chicken nuggets. For you, the goal will be to gain a clearer understanding of what might be behind your child’s fussiness. If you can make one change to their diet, even a small one, then that is also a great success. This may mean swapping their store-bought nuggets for homemade ones, changing their brand of peanut butter to one that is free from added sugars and switching from white bread to sourdough. Always keep in mind that change is a slow process when it comes to children, especially where fussy eating is concerned. It’s important to always respect where you and your child are at and celebrate any changes you are able to make. So how do children’s taste preferences develop? From the very first taste of food, we influence our baby’s relationship with food and their preferences. A baby’s food preferences begin in the mother ’s womb. Flavours pass through the placenta into the amniotic fluid, which foetuses swallow on a regular basis. Research shows that newborns are more accepting of flavours they have encountered during gestation, especially during the last trimester – which is a good thing, because by then, morning sickness has passed. Numerous studies have also shown that breastfeeding mothers with a large range of nutrients are more likely to have infants who are more accepting of a wider range of foods when they begin eating solids. However, it does behavioural issues as their diet is strengthening the development of their immune system and their cognitive abilities too. • It is far easier to make dietary changes while your kids are young. Repetition will pay off quickly at this stage. When I talk about exposing children to different tastes, I don’t mean giving a particular food to your child once and then, if they reject it, deciding that they don’t like it. For babies and young children it normally takes between six and 16 experiences with a flavour before it will be accepted. Somewhere between six and 10 times is the most common. If your child rejects a food, please do not give up. Freeze the leftovers and try again and again and again. There is clear evidence that repeated offerings will, in most cases, lead to an acceptance of a new food. • Once your child is two or older, it will most likely be more challenging for you – but with patience and persistence, changes can be made. Children learn through play and enjoyment and therefore mealtimes should remain an enjoyable and fun experience during which parents model positive behaviours. Often, the food groups that most parents struggle to get their child to eat are vegetables and protein – please refer to these chapters for lots of practical advice on making these foods more palatable. 21 wholesome child fussy eating Fussy WHAT EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW Eating Did you know? Studies have shown that different formulas have an effect on children’s taste preferences. Children who were given hydrolysed cow’s milk formulas are more likely to be accepting of sour, bitter and savoury tastes.