It’s highly likely most parents have had to deal with their children’s fussy eating habits and have battled to come up with ways to outsmart them.
Now a new study has analysed the issue and outlined ways to overcome those dinnertime tantrums.
The turning point for many children in developing picky attitudes was around the age of two.
The research reported parents worried about the impact on the child’s growth and health and conflicts at mealtime, as well as having feelings of guilt and failure.
Some strategies for coping with fussy children include repeated exposure to the offending food, modeling (that is setting a good example by tasting the food yourself), preparing meals together with children, and enhancing the offending ingredients with flavor.
Other strategies that are were reported not be be effective include using rewards for eating.
A new study has analysed the issue and outlined ways to overcome those dinnertime tantrums (stock image).
DOS AND DON’TS FOR DEALING WITH FUSSY EATING CHILDREN
The new research found the following:
- Repeated exposure to the complained about food
- Modeling – that is setting a good example by tasting the food yourself
- Preparing meals together with children
- Enhancing the offending ingredients with flavor.
- Making food look more interesting, for instance, by making it look like a face
- Mixing in other foods that children like, such as cheese
- Using rewards for eating – either by offering them something else as a treat if they ate the food, or by saying they wouldn’t get a treat if they didn’t eat a certain food, such as vegetables.
- Adjusting all meals to the child’s taste and accepting that they can only feed them their current favourite food.
‘Family meetings are problematic, we have to justify to everyone why she doesn’t want to eat,’ was one of the statements parents agree to in the study, which was published in the Journal of Child Health Care.
Another was ‘mealtimes are not a nice time,’ wrote lead author Dr Bérengère Rubio, from the Department of Psychology at the IFSTTAR Institute in Versailles, France.
The article states that research suggest that 50 percent of two-year-olds are fussy eaters, while others cite a more modest 17 percent by the age of three.
The findings were from focus groups involving 38 parents of children aged 18–38 months.
Parents attributed fussy attitudes over food mainly as a manifestation of assertiveness and opposition by their child.
They reported their youngsters sorting food into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ categories. The most commonly refused items are fruit and vegetables, and often any type of new food.
The group said that their children would cry when given with food and some had to deal with them throwing the entire meal on the floor.
The researchers note that it was not uncommon for children to be more open to eating or trying food they would not try at home when in the company of others, such as grandparents or at day-care.
Many parents were worried about their child’s health, concerned that they would be lacking in nutrients or that their limited food intake would mean they would get sick more.
Yet, Dr Rubio noted that previous research has failed to find a consensus about the effect of picking eating habits on children’s weight.
Other strategies the parents saw progress with include making food look more interesting, for instance, by making it look like a face, and mixing in other foods that their children like, such as cheese.
But the report says they had less success when they used reward or punishment to encourage their children to eat, either by offering them something else as a treat if they ate the food, or by saying they wouldn’t get a treat if they didn’t eat a certain food, such as vegetables.
Some parents admitted they had adjusted all meals to the toddler’s taste and accepted that they could only feed them their current favourite food.
But Dr Rubio says that these two techniques are counterproductive as they ‘encourage short-term tasting of the food but are associated over the long-term with pickiness and a restricted diet.’