Being a toddler is all about exploring and learning. Your toddler may squash, throw and play with their food – all these are normal phase of growth and development. As your toddler grows they develop a sense of independence and begin to choose and refuse food. This is one way that children assert their independence and test their parents’ patience.
A fussy eater is a child who refuses food at least half of the time. Children can reject food due to various reasons such as colour, texture and taste, or when they find it difficult to chew. Parents are their children’s greatest role models during this period as they start to develop their own preferences.
As a parent, you decide WHAT, WHEN and WHERE your child eats. As long as you offer nutritious and wholesome foods to them, your job is completed.
Your child will then determine HOW MUCH he or she eats. Leave that task to them as children are very good at regulating how much to eat over a period of time. If they eat a small amount one day, they will often make up for it later. Trust their appetite!
WHAT to provide
Children have small tummies therefore serving small frequent meals is recommended than a huge amount of food at a time. Provide three main meals and two to three nutritious snacks such as fruit, vegetables and dairy. Avoid juice, milk, cordial, soft drinks and even water right before a meal because it will easily fill up the child rather than the food on plate.
It may take up to 10 – 15 times for a child to accept a new food, so the goal is to keep offering foods and never give up. Do not assume any food dislikes because children often have their own preferences which can be different from their parents.
Children should not be bribed or rewarded with favourite foods like desserts in order for them to eat healthier foods. This will cause them to grow into disliking the healthier foods that they are being bribed to eat, and increase their preference for the food reward which is usually high in sugar and fats.
WHEN to eat
Parents should set regular meal and snack times as children thrive on structure and routine. By doing this, children should not feel hungry in between. If they ask for food when it is not their mealtime, make sure that they are not just eating out of boredom. A useful way is to inform them when the next meal or snack time is (e.g. “lunch will be ready in 15 minutes”).
Give children enough time to eat as they are still learning, especially for fussy eaters who are often slow eaters. If children are being rushed to eat, this will cause them to feel stressed and likely put them off their food.
WHERE to eat
Enjoy having meals together as a family at the table to encourage eating. Minimise distractions by turning off the TV or electronic devices including iPhones and iPads so that children can concentrate on their food. It is advised not to chase your child around with food because it will turn into a game to them.
Helpful tips for dealing with fussy eaters
- Toddlers love to feed themselves. Encourage them and provide help when necessary.
- Make sure the meal is calm and pleasant. Be patient. A child can sense that their parents are worried and stressed, this will put more stress on the child.
- Keep unfinished food in the fridge in case your child needs it when they are hungry later.
- Involve your child in meal preparation as they often respond well. Get them to help, choose, prepare or plate up food to cultivate their interest towards food.
- Make food fun! Try using different colours, shapes, plates and presentation of foods.
Eating together with peers helps because children are more inclined to try foods if they see other children eating those foods.
Pumpkin Apple Muffin (12 muffins)
- 100g (1 medium-sized) green apple, peeled and grated
- 70g (½ cup) pumpkin, cooked and pureed
- 80g (½ cup) raisins
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 190ml (¾ cup) full cream milk
- 125g (½ cup) honey
- 45ml (3 tablespoons) vegetable oil
- 190g (1⅓ cups) all-purpose flour
- 90g (⅔ cup) wholemeal flour
- 10g (2 teaspoons) baking powder
- 2g (½ teaspoons) baking soda
- 1g (½ teaspoons) cinnamon powder
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Whisk egg, oil, honey and milk together in a large bowl.
- Add grated apple, pumpkin puree and raisins into mixture and mix well.
- Slowly add sieved flour into the batter. Stir briefly till you get a fluffy batter.
- Grease muffin tins or lined them with muffin cups. Fill each cup ¾ full with the batter.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Your muffins are ready when a tester (toothpick) inserted comes out clean.
- Serve warm.
|Nutrient Content Per Muffin
Recipe adapted from: Nutritionists’ Choice Cookbook, Nutrition Society of Malaysia, 2011