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Will my Child choose to eat that?

Hilarious reasons children refuse to eat food has recently become hot topic. This source of amusement and frustration for many parents has been indulged by social media in many ways including an Instagram account aptly named #MyKidsCantEatThis, which since it’s inception in April 2015 has already grown to over 95,000 followers. A quick scan can reveal how children use the most bizarre of excuses to avoid particular foods and that their level of criticism may even make the best Michelin starred chef crumble!

Ensuring children eat the diet we would like them to is not always easy and this can be linked to a whole host of different reasons from food intolerances, nutrient deficiencies, poor digestion and even addictions to certain foods.

Follow these tips to help you to understand your child better and decide on some suitable strategies to employ.

Food Refusal:

This can involve new foods or foods that were once eaten without fuss. Both types relate to a basic fear response, which is a normal stage in a child’s development when they are starting to become more independent and more uncertain. This refusal may be linked to texture or taste.

What to do:

By gradually increasing exposure you can begin to reduce the fear factor to reach a point of acceptance.

  1. Plan for 15-20 exposures before a child will willingly put the food into their mouth.
  2. Track progress – e.g. happy to have on plate, touched – played with (art), tasted, eaten
  3. Reward with non-food rewards, e.g. stickers, magazine, lucky dip reward box, family game, extra story, outing
  4. Relax the pressure – praise for touching, tasting and eating small amounts. Acknowledge small steps
  5. Increase exposure – read stories, visit the supermarket together, plant some seeds, sing songs, messy play

Unhealthy Food Preferences:

Right from birth, children show a tendency to prefer sweet tastes. Indeed, breast milk is sweet. Children also have a tendency from birth to dislike bitter tastes. Since many vegetables taste bitter, this presents a barrier to them being easily accepted. It is important to support children to learn about food and its importance.

What to do:

It’s never too late to make changes to your family diet or too early to educate your child on healthy eating.

  1. Make healthy food the norm – always include vegetables at mealtimes, offer fruit and nuts at snack time
  2. Make yours a healthy home – remove and don’t buy unhealthy choices
  3. Educate – help children to understand why their bodies need fruit, vegetables, protein – use games, download APP’s, read books, sing songs
  4. Get growing – grow some carrots, cress, lettuce leaves, blueberry bush, tomatoes
  5. Visit a pick your own farm – strawberries raspberries
  6. Get them cooking with you.

Pressure to eat:

Uneaten food can be a source of frustration. Instead of setting rules, punishments, bribes taking a more relaxed stance can have a dramatic effect. It is important not to establish negative feelings about food.

What to do:

  1. Start each meal -time with a clean slate.
  2. Try to be objective.
  3. Think about portion size in relation to the size of their palm, e.g. 3 strawberries for a 2 year old is plenty for a portion of fruit.

Hope these give you a few strategies to help get your child closer to choosing something ‘healthy’ of their own free will. If you would like some additional support consider a telephone, Skype or face-to-face appointment at The Food Teacher Clinic where a registered nutritional therapist can talk about your individual needs and support you through the development of a bespoke programme for your child/family. The Food Teacher also works in Schools delivering 1:1 programmes and group/class sessions.

Katharine Tate Baby Led Feeding Guest Blogger

Thank you to the amazing Katherine Tate from The Food Teacher for doing a guest blog for us. Katherine has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years. She is a qualified registered nutritional therapist and combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations.

(For more information on The Food Teacher you can visit her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter or email her at info@thefoodteacher.co.uk. You can also visit her website to find out more and subscribe to her newsletter.)