Dealing with fussy eaters can be a nightmare. They aren’t all cute cherub-cheeked children, either…it seems the fussy gene comes in all sizes, and you are likely to have adult family and friends who are just as picky about their foods. Don’t drive yourself mad, though – check out these top tips on dealing with fussy eaters of all ages.
This is one I hadn’t tried before last week…but have you ever noticed how much extra stress trying to create a meal that suits everyone causes?! With over 70 people to cook for, sometimes it just isn’t possible to make a meal everyone will love. Confirm if any guests have allergies, and how many are vegetarians or vegans, and leave the likes and dislikes out of it. Whether the complainer is two or two hundred, just ignore any complaints, and let them enjoy the rest of the meal. Ignoring issues really can be the best way of dealing with fussy eaters.
There is nothing more upsetting than throwing away uneaten food, especially if it’s something you’ve spent a long time preparing. The solution? Serve smaller portions to people who are likely to complain or reject the food, and then become neutral to whether it’s eaten or not.
My sister has always been a bad eater, and at 16, it’s not likely to get better any time soon. The only thing that really helps is enforcing set meal times, and trying to keep the mood light and encouraging. Get your whole family together to eat as much as possible, and don’t let fussy eaters watch TV, read or be distracted. For some reason, this really works!
Creating good associations to a certain dish can work like a charm – Popeye even holds the magic ability to make people try spinach! If you are struggling to get enough of a food group eaten, try to associate it with something great. This even works on grown adults…try offering Brazil nuts along with beer for a few weeks, and you’ll soon find he won’t be having a beer without a few nuts – and Brazil nuts are packed with goodness!
Food can be an emotional issue, right from childhood up to being fully grown. It was only after visiting a food hospital that I saw the way it affects some people – and the staff there had excellent tips. A laid-back, casual attitude is essential at all times, whether your child is refusing to eat something or has just tried something new. By keeping it casual, you’ll avoid dramatics, and any power struggles.
Meal planning can be done for a variety of reasons, from budgeting to being organized and balancing nutrients. Whatever your reason, there is usually room for movement, so involve everyone in meal planning. Letting everyone have a say, and ensuring there is an element of every meal that each person loves, will reduce the stress of mealtimes and boost how much is eaten.
Were you offered a pudding after dinner if you cleared your plate? While desserts were used for all the best kinds of bribery, it’s not recommended to use food as a treat anymore. It’s often a cause of emotional eating, and it can make kids less likely to finish their main course. Offer sweet treats mixed in with other snacks like fruit, yoghurt, crackers and cheese, and avoid using food as a reward. A lot of the fussy children and teenagers I met improved drastically when desserts were managed this way.
Fussy people are STRESSFUL. Fussy children are twice so, and can be a big cause of tension and arguments between parents. Decide on what’s required – such as eating four spoons of mash, or two blocks of cheese, or half a sausage – and stick to that. Don’t argue, or undermine each other, or create an atmosphere. If you only put your foot down when you really need to, and you are firm but calm, you won’t encourage fussiness.
Along the same lines as picking your battles, remember to reflect on the situation. If your children hate cheese, it’s not a huge issue. I can’t stand it! But if your teenager is rejecting all carbohydrates, or your toddler won’t eat specific foods, it might be time to seek outside help and see if anything can be done. There is a whole range of potential issues, from eating disorders to digestion problems, so getting it investigated and getting professional help can be invaluable.
Eating can be a minefield, but if you keep these tips in mind, you should be a few steps closer to dealing with fussy eaters without becoming too stressed out! Do you have any tips on dealing with fussy eaters? I’d love to hear them!
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