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Top 5 tips for fussy eaters

In celebration of Children’s Week, Curtin University clinical fellow Kyla Smith provided her ultimate eating tips for young and fussy eaters.

Smith, from Curtin’s School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Technology, explained that she had seen a different mix of eating habits in preschools, including kids not eating enough vegetables, eating only a small variety of fruit, being fussy about meat and having a high intake of sugary drinks. In response to these issues, Smith offers these five recommendations.

1. Sit down and eat together as a family

Smith explained that eating as a family improves speech and language skills, improves a child’s academic outcomes, reduces the risk of mental health conditions and lowers the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

2. Do not coax or trick your child

“What we find is that children who are pressured to eat actually end up eating less overall,” Smith said. She encourages parents and childcare workers to avoid coaxing or tricking a child into eating, especially when trying to get kids to eat new dishes or more food.

3. ‘Parent provide, child decide’

Smith elaborated on the two roles parents and children have when it comes to eating as a family. She said parents are responsible for providing the meal, including timing, environment and the food that is offered. The children are responsible for deciding whether to eat, how much they eat and how often. “Fussy issues happen when parents and children are doing each other’s jobs and that’s when things get mixed up,” Smith said.

4. Be considerate with food you offer

Smith said parents should be considerate with the food they offer without catering to a child’s individual interests. Instead, she recommended that parents offer the same meal to the rest of the family to also make sure there’s extra food the child enjoys eating readily available on the table, for example bread or a side dish.

5. Introduce food in a positive environment

Smith explained that kids learn better in positive environments. “If mealtimes are stressful or upsetting anyone, including parents, then good learning doesn’t happen.” She advises families to seek help if they feel as though mealtimes “are more like battles”.

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One comment

  1. We always sit together for evening meals at the table. I place all the food on the table in bowls etc and allow my children to serve themselves and this gives them the choice of what and how much they place on their plates. i found they would eat more variety this way.

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