Your husband may love your cooking, but the real test is the kids. Whatever you prepare, the child seems to relish none, putting a big question mark on your cooking skills!
If there is a toddler at home, the most strenuous job for the mother is making the child eat a healthy diet. Most kidshave to be forced to eat. Even if they eat, it takes ages for them to finish the little that is on their plates. One cause of being fussy about food is that, kids take time to develop taste for a variety of foods. Another cause is the new found sense of independence of the toddlers. They would like to eat whatever and whenever they like. Meal times are sort of encroachment on their play time or a disturbance in their TV viewing. Sitting at the dining table is another boring affair for them. Fussing over food is a way of expressing that they have an opinion too. Sometimes it is just to seek attention. There are some ways parents can adopt to make the kids have food happily. Here are a few tips-
Develop a variety of tastes early
When you start weaning (giving the child food other than mother’s milk), do not stick to one food for a long time. You may give some baby food like cerelac etc. in the morning, mashed banana in the afternoon, boiled apple in the evening. As the child grows keep introducing new food like rice in the afternoon, and chapatti mashed in sweetened milk of dal water in the evening, or mashed vegetables. This way the kids will develop the taste for new foods early in life and you will also know their likes and dislikes. You can then give more of the food that they seem to relish. For kids around one year age, just keep in mind not to give any spicy food. Keep it light and introduce gradually.
Make meal time happy
When kids are very young, till one and a half or two, they are too easily distracted to sit at one place for long enough. So keep talking to them about something interesting like telling a story or showing them colorful books etc. By the age of two they should have regular meals with the family at the dining table. Involve the child in small interesting communication, like discussing about his friends and school, some funny incidents etc. (Do not talk with food in mouth and discourage the child too to do so).
Do not get angry and force the child
Let the child eat as much as he eats happily. Sometimes we fail to realize the child’s capacity and coax him to eat more than he can, at a time. The child will naturally vomit and this may create a negative feeling towards food over time.
Be a role model
As parents we are the role models from whom our children will learn by observing. So parents should be the ones who should follow a healthy diet first. The daily meals for the family should contain items from all the food groups. Avoid junk food and eat healthy snacks and drinks. When the child sees you relish the healthy food gradually it will become a habit for her too. Everyone has cravings for fast foods. Set a limit to these.
Involve the kids
To get the kids interested in food, involve them in the preparation. Take them along and let them help in picking up fruits and vegetables and other food items. At home they can do simple jobs like washing the vegetables and salads etc. A very creative form of involving the kids is in the kitchen garden. Involve them in growing vegetables, and then let them pluck the vegetables when you plan to cook it.
Do not bribe or give in to their demands
Let the kids realize that he has to eat what the whole family eats. If he doesn’t eat what you have prepared, do not rush to the kitchen to prepare a special dish for him. Also never bribe the child to eat by promising a chocolate or pizza, if she eats the food given to her. At times, say once a week prepare food of her liking, by allowing her to plan the menu.
Set a time
If the child is slow eater, set a reasonable time and ask her to finish within that time.
Make a schedule of snacks and meal time
The child must be hungry to take a meal. There should be a gap of at half to one hour between, milk, snacks and meals. So fix the time for meals and snacks and do not give any drinks or snacks just before main meals.
Praise the child when she finishes her food well in time. Its an achievement for her which she would love to repeat to win your love and praise.
These are simple tips to tackle fussy eaters. Parents just need to be innovative and patient, as most children grow out of this problem. Sometimes they are inspired on seeing their friends eating different kinds of food, sometimes they want to experiment with the family. A happy atmosphere at meal time is the most important.