12 Steps to Creating Non-Fussy Eaters
Move away for the puree..Let them get messy...Individual tastes...Let them take control...Just keep offering....Eat together...No pressure...Cutlery doesn't matter....End on a positive note.
Step One - Eat a healthy and varied diet while pregnant and breastfeeding
Pregnant women can take advantage of the most wonderful window of opportunity, by eating a varied diet, as babies born to mothers who ate a varied and healthy diet during pregnancy will have a tendency to be drawn to the same healthy foods that the mother ate during her pregnancy, the same applies for breastfeeding mothers.
Step Two - Move away from the puree
The World Health Organization recommend introducing solids at 6 months of age, when it comes to weaning, you can either use the 'Rapley' Weaning method (where by a child self feeds from 'whole foods') or you can introduce solids by pureeing and spoon feeding your baby. If you choose the later method of introducing solids to your baby, there are some important steps that you can take to help ensure your baby will happily accept a large variety of foods. The first is that it is important to quite rapidly move from smooth pureed foods to mashed foods, aim for your baby to be eating mashed rather than pureed foods by about 7 1/2 months, and and include whole grains like couscous, amaranth and quinoa with soft mashed vegetables to add textures to your babies food. Even if your baby does not have any teeth, he should be able to manage soft mashed foods quiet efficiently.
Step Three - Let them get Messy
Try to offer finger foods at least once a day once you start weaning - rather than offering rusks or 'baby biscuits' aim to offer soft raw foods like avocado or banana, or soft cooked foods like sweet potato or butter nut squash. Your baby will probably make quiet a mess, but this is all an important part of the learning process. Try not to rush in with the wet wipes to get every little mess your baby makes when experimenting with finger food, babies who are able to freely explore textures and make messes with food are less likely to have an aversion to different textures of food and trying new foods as they grow - getting messy is a good thing!
Step Four - Introduce individual tastes
When you are introducing purees and mashed foods to your baby, try to give your baby individual tastes of vegetables, fruits and meats, rather than always mixing everything together all of the time. There is nothing wrong with making combinations of meats and vegetables or different fruits, but aim to offer individual tastes of vegetables at at least one meal a day. Children who have been offered individual tastes of vegetables as babies are much more willing to eat them as toddlers as they can easily identify the taste.
Step Five - Milk intake
If you are formula feeding, calculate the amount of milk your baby needs for a 24 hour period in accordance to her weight and age, and do not exceed that daily amount. If a baby fills up on milk, they will not have the appetite to eat solid foods. Due to toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals being used in plastics, avoid using plastic sippy cups and bottles with your baby or toddler, opting instead for a safe alternative such as the Klean Kanteen.
Step Six - The Mantra
The Mantra for feeding, is you choose what it is they are going to eat, and your child chooses how much they are going to eat. Do not become a short order chef if you want to have a child who is not a fussy eater! Do a weekly meal plan which includes a healthy and varied diet for your baby or child, and stick to it. Offer your child what it is that you have decided for your child's meal and they can then eat as much or as little as they want. This may seem like a very hard nosed approach, but this is the area in which children will become 'fussy' if they are instantly gratified with another option if they do not eat what is on offer, and by giving them a substitute meal you are reaffirming to them and giving them the message that the first option you have given them is 'yucky'.
Step Seven - Let them take control
When babies get to around 15-18 months, they want to be able to be in control of feeding themselves. At this age many children stop eating, and many parents mistake this for their child becoming 'fussy eaters'.... it is not that the child does not want to eat the food, it is that the child does not want to be fed. By letting the child feed themselves, and creating a relaxed atmosphere in which a child can learn to feed themselves, and be allowed to make their own mistakes you will find your child will be eating well again. Try not to direct how your child eats - refrain from making suggestions like 'why don't you eat the carrots next', rather sit and chat with your child about what you have done during the day. If you feel the need to talk about the food, narrate what it is the child is doing ie 'Wow that was a big spoonful', or 'I see you really love the sweet potatoes!', but try to keep this to a minimum, and let your child choose which order and how they will eat their food.
Step Eight - Cutlery doesn't matter The important thing about toddlers feeding themselves is that the healthy food gets into them, it doesn't really matter if they eat with their fingers. Pick your battles, think about what really matters, the table manners and eating 'properly' with cutlery can come in time (lets face it it's not like your son is going to be eating his meal with his fingers at his wedding reception if he was not using cutlery at 18mths old!)
Step Nine - No pressure Never ever force feed, bribe or threaten. The minute you start using any of these methods you are going to run into problems. Trust that your child will eat as much as their body needs, just because they didn't finish everything on their plate, doesn't mean they are going to fade away. Toddlers usually wax and wane with their appetites, with weeks where it seems like they are surviving on fresh air alone, and weeks where it seems they are eating like teenage boys. By maintaining a relaxed attitude during the weeks they are not eating much, your child will continue to eat a varied and healthy diet.
Step Ten - Just keep offering Offer your child 3 healthy meals (make sure not to offer too big a meal, as children can very easily feel very overwhelmed - offer about a 1/3 of an adult size portion), 2 healthy snacks and water during the day. Make sure that these consist of a wide variety of foods, textures and shapes. If you give you child sandwiches, try cutting them in different shapes each time, offer fruits in different ways e.g sometimes a banana may be mashed, sometimes sliced, and sometimes whole with the skin peeled down. Even if there is a food that your child is reluctant to try, keep offering it frequently, as a child has to have multiple exposures to a new food to see it as familiar and safe to eat.
Step Eleven - Eat together Try to sit down together as a family to eat your meals, make sure that you are all eating the same thing, and let your child eat things off your plate if they want to. By sitting and eating a healthy meal with them you are being a good role model, and demonstrating table manners - if children observe their parents and siblings using table manners, it is something they will naturally pick up rather than something they need to be 'taught'. Eating together as a family makes mealtime into a bonding social activity.
Step Twelve - End on a positive note When your child has decided they have had enough, end the meal positively and calmly. If the child has not eaten much, but clearly does not want to eat any more, calmly observe "You are not so hungry today are you", and hop them down the table - they will be offered food again at the next snack/meal time. If the child has eaten everything ask "Are you still hungry", and offer them some fresh fruit/yoghurt/cheese or whatever healthy food you choose. This is not a 'reward' for having eaten their meal - you are simply meeting their appetite requirements. By taking your child down from the table, and not offering them anything else to eat when they have not eaten much, you are showing your child that you respect that they are not hungry, and that you trust them to listen to their body and eat what they need.
By maintaining a relaxed and calm atmosphere during meal times, you will make eating, and trying new foods a rewarding and positive experience for your child, and create a stress free environment for the whole family. Another wonderful thing to do with children is to have them eat with their little friends, as they will often pick up the 'good' table manners that they observe in their friends, and try foods they see their little friends eating. It also makes for a lovely social experience for them.