- Parents and caregivers should encourage their young fussy eaters to eat healthy foods for their normal growth and development
- Fear of new and unfamiliar foods is the most common problem faced once solid foods are introduced into a baby's diet
Parents, caregivers, and grandparents of fussy eaters should work along with teachers to encourage the child to eat healthy foods and try different diets during their preschool and early school years, suggest Nutritionists.
A new study from nutrition and dietetics experts at Flinders University has found that the diets of young Australians face a significant challenge once introduced to solid food.
‘Fear of new and unfamiliar foods can make your child a fussy eater. Parents and caregivers can encourage healthy eating habits in young children.
Fear of new (neophobia) and unfamiliar foods is the most common problem
faced once solid foods are introduced into a baby's diet. This may later have an impact during preschool and early school years where good nutrition plays a vital role in healthy development
can easily develop bad eating habits
from 3-7 years which are the crucial years for physical and learning development.
The new study on the dietary habits of children aged 1 to 5 years, indicates that Australian parents are breastfeeding their babies to an average age of almost 12 months.
However, parents and caregivers usually face certain difficulties while introducing solid foods to their babies.
"Children who were more likely to reject unfamiliar foods
, which is commonly perceived by parents as 'fussy' or 'picky' eating
, have poorer diets," said lead researcher Dr. Lucinda Bell, an accredited practicing dietitian. This avoidance of new, unfamiliar foods by children is a part of the normal development.
"But some children have a greater fear of new foods, which may be due to both nature and nurture."
Simple Tips to Help Children Taste New Foods
Associate Professor Golley have suggested some best practice feeding strategies, which includes simple tips to encourage children to taste new foods.
- Set the Bar Low and be Determined: If children just taste a food, after 10-15 'tastes' they will be more likely to prefer that food.
- Offer Different Foods: Continue providing your child with a variety of foods. Include even those foods that have been rejected by them earlier.
- Combine New Foods with Old Favorites: By providing children with a vegetable, they like along with a vegetable they don't like or have never tried before may increase their chance of tasting the new vegetable.
- Be a Role Model: Dads play a vital role here. The variety of healthy foods on dad's plate has great influence on what foods children are willing to eat. Parents should not show any personal food dislike in front of the child.
- Keep it Simple: Children use food as a tool to show their independence. Sometimes, the best way to reduce mealtime battles is to simply take the uneaten food away, without any comment.
- Feed Children Only when They are Hungry: Provide small snacks in between meals, i.e., 1-2 hours after their main meal, as they are less likely to be hungry and ready to eat or try new foods.
- Follow Healthy Apps: Smartphone apps such as Mealtime and PlanBuyCook can help prepare simple, healthy meals for young children. Meal kit services such as Hello Fresh also can promote healthy meal planning, so families need not rely on takeaway or other less healthy alternatives.
This new approach can help parents and caregivers to motivate their young fussy eaters to switch to healthy eating habits
more safely and easily.