How fascinating to see new research hitting the headlines this week, which suggests that fussy eating in young children is heavily influenced by their genes. It’s no wonder that the findings, first published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, were so widely reported. I see many frustrated parents who often feel guilty, horribly judged or responsible if their child is hard to feed. So it’s good to be able to provide reassurance that, as with so many things, there is a combination of factors that comes into play.
Until I became a mum, I hadn’t realised how emotionally wearing mealtimes could be. So often we start with the best intentions but a refusal to eat can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, with frustration on everyone’s part. While genes play a large part in fussy eating and an unwillingness to try new foods, the researchers also found that the home environment is important and that parents can positively influence their child’s eating behaviours. I’ve worked with many families in my practice and seen that just a few changes to how we prepare, present and act around meals can make a big difference. Why not try some of these ideas?
- Sit down to eat with your child as much as possible – the more you eat together, the more likely it is that your child will want take part.
- With young ones, tap into any stories involving food and maybe try foods that the characters like to eat.
- Check that the reason they’re not hungry at mealtimes is because they’re snacking or filling up with fizzy drinks.
- Try each new food 8-10 times, leaving days in between, before you give up on it.
- Whizz up fruit smoothies and let your child be involved in choosing the ingredients that go into the blender. A curly straw works wonders, too!
- Take your child shopping when it’s not too busy and you can spend time talking about the foods you’re putting in your trolley. Let them unpack the bags and put the foods away in the right place.
- Try to cook together and taste things as you go along. Expecting fussy eaters to eat foods that just land on the plate with no story seldom works.
Eating for baby – and you
It was my joy to appear at Babyfest '16 hosted by Mumsnet, talking about pre- and post-natal nutrition with Kiddicare and answering questions from parents. To find out my thoughts on vitamin supplements for mums-to-be, what to eat if you’re breastfeeding and keeping your energy up as a new mum, read the interview here.
Healthy foods for kids
Instant Banana Ice Cream or Power Pack Cereal Bars anyone? My website is full of delicious, nutritious recipes that kids and grown-ups will love to eat together. I’d love to know your favourites, as well as the tips you use with fussy eaters, young and old! Please leave a comment below, get in touch by emailing email@example.com or talk to me on social media.