Top 7 Tips for Surviving the Fussy Phase
I remember chatting with a friend a few years ago. She likened feeding her toddler to psychological warfare. She set the scene of her and her 3-year-old son eyeballing each other as they unblinkingly passed a cherry tomato back and forth across the table. She lost the battle (daily) but eventually won the war. One day she gave her son a cherry tomato and he just popped it into his mouth and that was that.
You can’t help but laugh, as it’s every parent’s story, and it almost makes you wonder if fussiness is some form of rite of passage for toddlers. Children decide to turn away food for reasons that span from the sublime to the ridiculous – like the cucumber touching the carrot, or that you used the yellow plate and not the green plate (apart from Tuesdays as then it’s the other way around). It can be frustrating, amusing and bewildering at the same time. It can also be stressful, especially if the behaviour persists for a prolonged period and you become unsure if your children are getting enough nutrients. Teaching your children to appreciate and enjoy wholesome food is arguably one of the most important jobs you as a parent have when preparing them for a healthy future.
Here are our seven tips to help you navigate through the fussy stage.
1. Start by making it easier for yourself
Our top tip is to have easy and simple wholefoods ready to go. The following are all foods that can be prepared quickly (or just grabbed on the way out): Chopped fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, sliced veggies & hummus. And of course a few Tot’s Pantry meals in the freezer for when you’re short of time and your children are hangry!
2. Find a Common Goal
Like the rest of us, when something seems a bit hard and you’d rather not do it, finding some good motivation is a terrific strategy. Use something or someone that your child aspires to be as key inspiration for them to eat wholefoods. Some good examples that have worked for me are; ‘strong like your daddy’, ‘fast like a cheetah’ or ‘as smart as an astronaut’. Explain that they need to eat healthy foods if they want to grow big and strong like their heroes.
3. Set it straight
Explain what healthy foods are, and what aren’t. Explain that the less healthy foods like chips and lollies don’t make you big and strong. Ask your children what they think of different foods and get them to identify if they are healthy or not.
Set clear rules around mealtimes and stick to them. Such as:
1. No snacks for an hour before mealtime. If they complain they are hungry we can explain that it is ok to feel a bit hungry before a meal.
2. There is no alternative. That is their dinner, and if they won’t eat it, that is fine but there is nothing else (we don’t want to force foods and risk negative associations).
4. Walk the talk
If you follow a good and healthy diet, your children will be way more inclined to eat healthier foods. If they are turning their nose up at some food, make a fuss about how delicious you think it is. Feel free to say that all their heroes also love this food, and then stand up and tell them how big and strong that food just made you.
5. Junior Masterchef
Involve your children in the cooking and prep, or at least the fun parts of it. Children actually love helping out and feeling like you need their assistance. This also gives them ownership of the food that’s being served. Be warned, things will get very messy. Just keep reminding yourself that this is great for their food journey so a little bit (Hah!) of extra cleaning will be worth it.
6. Have fun with food
Present food in a funny and cute way that will help capture the interest of your children. Make their initials out of peas, or a smiley face with the food on their plate. Cut the veggies into fun shapes. Carrots can turn into a lion and cucumbers can easily be a snake! We don’t want to rely on this being a standard but every now and again it is fun to do.
7. Don't give up!
Keep offering your children foods. Just because they turn something away once, doesn’t mean they won’t ever eat it. Also, don’t assume that your children won’t like certain foods. My daughter Charlotte loves pickled onions and sauerkraut! Even the most unexpected foods can be enjoyed, don’t be afraid to give it a go!
All of Tot’s Pantry and Little Angels products are made with little ones in mind, whether it is for weaning babies or feeding fussy toddlers, we know the drill! Check out our range of beautiful natural baby & toddler approved meals.