Do you have a child who tends to be fussy around food?

The solution may be in setting a good example of a healthy relationship with food.

Fussy eating is a complex issue, with many factors that can contribute.

For younger children, it can be a phase that they grow out of.

But if your child continues to refuse new foods, being a good role model around food can help.

Let’s look at some ways that you can set a good example for your kids when it comes to food.

Eating as a family

As many families have both parents working, it’s not always feasible for everyone to sit down at the table together. I often have mothers that tell me that the kids eat at 5, and then they wait until their husband is home to have dinner because they don’t want him to eat alone.

But it is important for kids to eat with adults to see them model behaviour around food. Otherwise, if your kids are always eating separately, they can’t learn healthy behaviours around food.

This can also help to expose your kids to new foods. Exposure is an important part of integrating new foods, so being able to see and smell what you eat can help them to try new foods.

It doesn’t always have to be dinner that you eat together.

If the family’s evening schedule is all over the place, you can eat breakfast together, or have a family lunch every weekend. You can also ask your parents, carers or babysitters if they can sit and eat something with the kids.

Using positive language around food

If you’re telling your child to eat their veggies but your partner is saying that Brussel sprouts are gross, it’s no surprise that your child refuses them.

The way that adults interact with their food will be mimicked, so you want to be aware of what you say and do when it comes to the foods you’re introducing.

This doesn’t mean that you have to eat foods that you loathe or say you love Brussel sprouts when you hate them. But it does mean that both parents need to avoid disparaging foods that are being introduced.

Having one family meal

A common issue that feeds into picky eating is having two separate dinners – one for adults and one for kids. If we give our kids the bland foods they prefer, they’re not going to be interested in trying something new!

Of course you can still make variations of the same meal. For example, you might enjoy a spicy dish but serve your child’s portion up before adding the chilli. Or you might love some salmon but the kids have hoki with the same rice and vegetables on the side.

Another good option is to have buffet or family style meals where the kids can serve themselves. That way, they are still exposed to all of the elements of the meal, but aren’t pressured into trying it.

Some good options to serve family-style include roast dinners (just pre-cut the roast before serving), Mexican, pasta dishes or nourish bowls.

Stick to a routine

When we were growing up, meals and snacks were at the same time every day. If you didn’t eat enough and got hungry, you just had to wait until the next meal or snack.

But nowadays, having structured meal times has gone out the window. Between parents working late, kids going to sports and hobbies and socialising, eating happens at almost any time of day.

Unfortunately, this has led to many kids slipping into a pattern of constantly grazing throughout the day. Then when dinner time comes, they don’t want to eat their veggies. That’s no surprise as they’ve filled up on muesli bars, biscuits and anything else in the cupboard!

That’s why it’s best to set a routine when it comes to eating, particularly over school holidays. What works best for your family is up to you, but a common one is 3 meals and 3 snacks. If they’ve had their snack and are still saying they are hungry, give them some water instead.

Remember that growing kids may need more food while going through a growth spurt. So the snacks may become mini meals at times! In this case, you want to focus on including fruit, veggies, protein and healthy fats in as many snacks as possible.

Finally, I just want to remind you to keep trying. It takes time for kids to try and incorporate new foods into their regular diet. This can feel like an eternity, particularly if your child has sensory issues or is a problem eater. But the way that you behave around food can make a big difference in your child’s long-term wellbeing.

Do you have a fussy eater at home? Want some tailored strategies to increase the variety of foods they eat?

Book in for a free 20 minute chat so we can have a chat about options for your family.