What's all the fuss about?

What's all the fuss about?
If meal times are stressful and the dinning table is a battle zone at your house, chances are you are dealing with a fussy eater. Being fussy about food is normal and usually a passing phase in children. However, when fussiness is persistent and a child rejects a number of foods, it is time for action.

Pushing the food around the plate, picking on it or flatly refusing to eat at mealtimes are some of the characteristics shown by a fussy eater. Although it is stressful for parents, it is important to understand it is the way we actually behave or deal with it that corrects or worsens fussy eating.

Here are some tips to deal with a fussy eater:
Introduce a broad range of foods early on during childhood. In fact, it would help if a breast feeding mother eats a variety of foods while feeding a child. This results in “flavour bridging” and the child is ready to accept these flavours and tastes when the first foods are introduced even during the complementary feeding stage.

Make mealtimes happy and eat together with the entire family. Try not to worry or shout about spilled drinks or food on the floor.

Introducing nutritious healthy food to a fussy child requires some finesse and tact. Children are sometimes turned off by vegetables or strong smelling fruit. It is important to keep introducing the rejected food again and again till they accept the food. Studies indicate that a food needs to be introduced at least 7-8 times before it is accepted. When you introduce it again and again, do so in small amounts. With each reintroduction episode, increase the quantity.

What you eat is what your child eats. Your food habits and attitude to foods are a huge influence on your children, as they watch and learn to act the way you react to food. Present foods to a fussy eater in a fun way. Make dosas, chapatis and parathas in geometrical designs. Cut up fresh fruits in small bite-sized pieces and serve it with a paneer dip or rolled in muesli.

Get your child to participate in meal prep and cooking and even shopping. Ask them to handle the foods they dislike if they can. Touching and working with the food they dislike can reduce their fear of the food.

Teach children about the food they eat and explain what it does in their bodies. Tell them that the protein and calcium in milk will help build muscle and bone. The carbs from whole grain foods will keep them energetic. The good fats from nuts will help their brain. Teach them that leafy vegetables have a lot of iron, which helps in blood formation. Don’t impose too many rules about table manners. But set a time limit of about 20-25 minutes for meals.

These simple guidelines will help resolve the situation. However, seek the help of a qualified nutritionist or your paediatrician if fussy eating is affecting the growth of your child.

(The author is a nutrition advisor, MonkeyBox)

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