Managing fussy eating is often challenging for parents as, in addition to concern about physical health, it often taps into beliefs about the role of a being a “good” parent. It can also be incredibly frustrating to have the hard work you have put into making a meal rejected. Here are a few suggestions on how to manage mealtimes to stop them turning into a battleground.
If your child is gaining weight and growing appropriately they are most likely getting all the nutrition they need, even if it seems they are not eating “enough”. If you are concerned about any aspect of your child’s physical development please discuss this with your health visitor, school nurse or GP
Although easier said than done, it is important to stay calm during mealtimes as your child is unlikely to be persuaded to eat if you get frustrated, threaten, bargain etc. This also makes mealtimes stressful for the rest of the family
Don’t try and sit down for a meal when your child is overtired or very hungry as they are likely to respond by refusing to eat.
Consider what other food and drink your child has consumed during the course of the day as they may not actually be hungry if they have had frequent snacks or a large meal at lunchtime.
At the table
Try and introduce the concept of mealtimes as a social activity by eating as a family or with friends and chatting about non-food related topics. If at the end of the meal your child hasn’t eaten their food remove the plate without comment. Offer small portions and praise effort if they try something new even if they don’t eat it all.
Avoid too much choice
Offer your child the choice between having what the rest of the family are eating or one other healthy food choice. This allows you to plan ahead to minimise arguments just before you sit down to eat and also allows your child the opportunity to have a “way out” other than to not eat at all.
Create interest in food
For older children involve them in food shopping, menu planning and food preparation. This will provide an element of control and the opportunity to explore different types of food in a less pressurised way.
Webster Stratton, C. (2005). The Incredible Years. A Trouble-Shooting Guide for Parents of Children Aged 2-8 years. Seattle WA: Incredible Years.
If you and/or your family are experiencing similar issues and if these difficulties begin to cause ongoing distress or develop into a bigger issue over time, consider contacting me for an intervention that it specifically tailored to meet your individual needs on Tel: 07514 874561 Email: email@example.com
I am based at Northwood Surgery, Argyle House, Joel Street, Northwood Hills. HA6 1NW.