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Don’t panic with picky eaters

Does your child only want to eat fish fingers with tomato sauce? Don’t worry you're not alone!

Picky eating is often simply a natural fear of new foods which can lead to food refusal, with fruits and vegetables often the main problems.

Picky or fussy eating is usually a phase that can be outgrown, but it can also be the start of a long-term unhealthy habits. In most cases, continuing to offer healthy foods will eventually bear fruit. If your child’s fussy eating really limits their intake of healthy foods and causes poor weight gain, it’s time to seek professional help.

In the meantime, here are 15 helpful tips to consider when feeding for your picky eater:

  1. The earlier you start different tastes, the less the change of picky eating. First foods after 6 months should ideally be vegetables and fruit.
  2. Offer a variety of healthy foods during each meal keeping in mind the foods your child likes while disguising or introducing new foods in the same meal.
  3. Be patient and persevere when offering new kinds of foods. You might have to try the same food up to 15 times, before they will eat it! Don’t make a big deal of it, set it aside for a few days, then try again.
  4. Try making food fun by creating a character or face out of the ingredients on the plate.
  5. Introduce new foods with trusted favourites and comment on their colour, texture and taste.
  6. ‘Eat your veg and you can have ice cream’, or ‘you must finish your plate’ is actually not good tactics. Children are very good at knowing how much they should eat, and persuading them to eat more can desensitize them.
  7. Avoid filling up on fruit juice, milk and snacks in between meals. This can ruin appetite which is important for a good meal.
  8. Try healthy dips such as mashed avocado, non-spicy salsa, yogurt, hummus, or peanut butter dip to entice your child to eat fruits, vegetables, and meats.
  9. Allow your children to help prepare meals, the handling, smelling, and touching the food helps your child become familiar with the foods and gets them comfortable with the idea of eating it.
  10. Move dinner to the table, not the TV.
  11. Do not substitute meals with luxuries which may be an easy sell to picky eaters.
  12. Don’t cut out sweets and treats completely, as you child will overeat when they have the chance. But keep treats infrequent and don’t keep lot’s in the house!
  13. Do not substitute food with milk or formula for toddlers still to be weaned off the bottle. Starting solids is an important milestone in development.
  14. Be a role model - your child is unlikely to eat broccoli if you refuse it too!
  15. If you are concerned about your child's nutrition or think they need supplements, discuss this with your child’s paediatrician, a dietitian, clinic nurse, or GP.

If you have any tips and tricks to share when it comes to picky eaters, we would love to hear from you on our social media pages! Find us on Facebook @HeartStrokeSA or tweet us @SAHeartStroke.