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wholesome child fussy eating 10 strategies for dealing with fussy eating ➊ DESENSITISATION. Encourage your little ones to touch, smell and engage with their food. This starts right from shopping for groceries. Can they help take items off the shelves? Encourage them to pick up a carrot, an apple or a zucchini from the shelf and place it in the basket or trolley themselves – this begins the engagement with the new food. Can they put the dish or new veggie onto the table for the family? Don’t be disappointed if they don’t eat the new food the first time it’s offered – stay positive, freeze what is not eaten and offer it again. ➋ REPETITION. Make new foods familiar by repeatedly offering them in a calm, familial environment. A child will not go to a stranger the first time they meet them, but after a few visits they generally feel more comfortable to sit with them. The same goes for new foods. Repeated exposure aids the process of engaging with new tastes and flavours. You can also try offering these same foods in different ways – cut into fun shapes, laid out in colour patterns, steamed veggies rather than raw. ➌ MESSY PLAY. Allow your baby to reach for his food and feed himself. If your baby is being spoon fed offer him his own spoon to attempt to feed himself or have two spoons at meal times, one for you and one for your child. If your little person refuses to be spoon fed, try offering finger foods but don’t limit their choices to ‘appropriate finger foods’. Offer porridge and make it thicker so it can be picked up in globs once it has cooled down, or offer bolognaise over spiral pasta shells so he can pick up shells covered in bolognaise sauce. Six months is an ideal age to start to encourage finger feeding with safe and appropriate choices. Be creative and remember that enjoying food is a sensory experience. Children who are allowed to get messy with their food through exploration are often less fussy. ➍ FAMILY MEALS. Make it a goal to eat together as a family as often as possible. See tips for making this a fun experience for all on page 46. ➎ EDUCATE YOUR CHILD DAILY WITH INTERESTING, FUN-FILLED FOOD FACTS. Help them to make the connection that what we eat helps us to feel strong and healthy or will make them run faster or jump higher. For younger children, show images of carrots and let them know that carrots help us to see better. If they are sick give them an orange and say it has vitamin C to help to fight off the nasty bugs in their tummy. Go into greater detail for older children and show them books that explain that our health is dependent on the foods we eat. ➏ WHEN TRYING TO OFFER NEW FOODS, WORK WITH THE TEXTURES THAT THEY LIKE. For instance if you really want to get your child to eat homemade potato chips or sweet potato chips and you know they love crunchy food, its probably best not to make huge, fat wedge-shaped chips. Rather, using a peeler, grate the potatoes really finely and bake them for 25-30 minutes (avoid burning them). They will come out crispy and delicious. Once your child is happy to eat these you can offer it in a different form, maybe as a larger chip or as mashed potato. If your child is extremely fussy then it’s important to show them how the potato can change shape – take one potato and make it thin and crispy and take another potato and make it thicker. One of the things we need to teach children, especially older children, 25 is that food can change shape but still taste the same. ➐ OFFER CHOICE AT MEALTIMES. Children like to feel they have some control when it comes to food. Many mums do not want to become short order cooks or fall into the habit of making five different meals each evening. However, it is particularly important for fussy children to be given a choice between two healthy options. For example: “We can have fish fingers or lamb kofta for dinner – which would you like?” Vary the choices as the seasons change. For example: “So now we are heading into winter, would you like a soup or stew?” Give toddlers a choice of where they want to sit and ask them which plate they’d like. Give younger children a choice between two foods that you have already prepared. Take older children along to purchase beef mince and ask if they would prefer meatballs or bolognaise. ➑ TRY TO SERVE A SMALL PORTION OF FOOD ON A LARGE PLATE. This way your child won’t feel overwhelmed. If your child simply refuses to eat a particular food, do not let them see your frustration. Simply remove the food and continue to try another day. Children can often use food as a control mechanism if they see that you are getting upset. ➒ MAKE MEALTIMES FUN. Sing songs, make pictures out of vegetable sticks and dips. The main thing is that young children should enjoy the whole sensorial experience, even if it means sticking their fingers into everything and eating with their hands. ➓ PRAISE YOUR CHILD FOR EATING NEW FOODS. Children love praise, and if both parents praise a child for eating well it can have a long-lasting effect.