Fussy eating: Expert's top tips on how to get your kids to eat

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There’s nothing like fussy eating to ruin dinner time Photo: Getty Images
There’s nothing like fussy eating to ruin dinner time Photo: Getty Images

“I don’t like crusts.”

“I only like crusts.”

“I only like crusts if they’re cut into diamonds and arranged in a V formation.”

Fussy eating is a dreaded phase that almost all parents will go through.

According to a recent study, 90% of children go through a least one stage of fussy eating.

So to all the parents tearing your hair out over food madness: you’re not alone, and not all hope is lost.

According to the UK’s No.1 children’s cookery author, and mum of three Annabel Karmel, food fussiness is not only normal, but beatable.

The Kids Club Childcare nutritional partner says that while the fussy eating stage is just a toddler trying to assert independence, it’s also a huge stress pressure for parents, with two-thirds losing sleep over it.

So for those of you at your wits end, here are her five top tips for revolutionising dinner time:

1. Keep your cool

Keeping calm is your first priority Photo: Getty Images
Keeping calm is your first priority Photo: Getty Images

The first rule of war is to keep the upper-hand and Annabel says in this case that means hiding your frustration:

The golden rule is to keep it cool,” she told tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“Sometimes, easier said than done I know but try to hide these frustrations, and instead give them lots of praise when they eat well or try something new.

“This may mean that you have to ignore some of their bad behaviour and instead focus your attention on their good behaviour.”

2. Don’t Beg

It can be tempting to try and coax a child into eating their dinner, but according to Annabel, sometimes the rumble of an empty belly is the most powerful incentive for a fussy eater.

It is better to say ‘fine you are obviously not hungry’ and clear away once you have finished your dinner,” she says.

“A hungry child is a less fussy child so by doing this they will soon learn that mealtimes are there for a reason and that there won’t be food available later on.”

3.Healthy switch

Sometimes all you need is a sheep in wolf’s clothing to break a revolution. Annabel says dressing up healthy foods by changing the presentation can be the perfect trick.

“Sometimes it is the most simple of ideas which are the most effective,” she says.

“Whether it’s having their own individual portions in ramekins, including kids chopsticks when serving noodle or rice dishes or even just putting your creative hat on to make their food look extra special.”

Don’t beg Photo: Getty Images
Don’t beg Photo: Getty Images

4. Close the kitchen

It can be tempting with a fussy little one to get some food into them wherever and whenever you can, but according to Annabel saving food for meal times can do a world of good.

“I would also avoid grazing,” the author warns.

“It’s much better to have a meal – snack routine and ‘close the kitchen’ in between times so that your child has an opportunity to listen to her hunger and fullness cues.”

5. Make food fun

There’s nothing like a bit of fun to alleviate the stress of dinner time with your picky child. Annabel encourages parents to get their kiddies involved in the kitchen in order to foster and understand the the love of good, healthy food.

“It’s amazing how being involved in the planning and preparation of a meal can stimulate a child’s appetite,” she says. “It’s a proven tactic to get their child to try new foods that they would usually shun.”

“Put out lots of different bowls of colourful veggies and good for you foods and get them to fill, top and fold their own wraps, quesadillas or homemade tortilla pizzas.”

What tricks have you used to get an angry toddler to eat?

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