You have spent hours slaving in the kitchen (or nagging the cook) ensuring that each meal served to the family, is tasty and nutritionally balanced. Your relatives and friends rave about your cooking and everyone loves what you serve- everyone except your child. What do you do when your child will have nothing but chicken nuggets for dinner every night?
Fussy eaters have the power to turn even the calmest of parents into raging and screaming villains. Although it isn’t an easy task, it is possible to feed your picky eater without compromising on nutrition (or your sanity) Here are a few suggestions:
Keep in mind that you are responsible for the food that your child has access to, at home. So you cannot gorge on chips and chocolates and expect your child to snack on fruits. Set an example by eating healthy yourself.
1. Find out if your child is being fussy or whether he is just not hungry. Give him only so much quantity that he can eat comfortably, and don’t force him to ‘clean his plate’. Don’t overwhelm him with more than he can handle and give him an opportunity to ask for what he wants.
2. Serve food in attractive shapes and in sizes that his little hands can handle. Use cookie cutters to cut out attractive shapes. So a vegetable Uttapam can be shaped like a colourful bird or animal and a sandwich can be a funny face.
3. Try to serve meals at the same time every day, to reduce the tendency to snack in between. As much as possible eat together as a family, and try to introduce kids to what the family eats as soon as possible, so that he knows that the whole family is eating the same food as him.
4. Sit together as a family and decide on a weekly menu. Involve your child in shopping for grocery and also in the actual preparation process; he can help you wash the vegetables or lay the table. This might help him to appreciate the food served to him.
5. If your child loves his ‘junk food’ adopt the ‘if you can’t beat em join ‘em ‘ strategy . Bake potatoes instead of frying them for French fries, use vegetable puree as a base for pasta sauce , serve burgers with broccoli tikkis, mix fruit puree with flavored yogurt, freeze and serve as ‘ice cream’ With a little imagination the options are endless.
6. Ensure that your child has options to choose from, so that he feels that he has a certain level of control. Instead of asking him ‘what do you want for dinner?’ and saying no to his unacceptable choices; give him one or two options. For instance, you could ask your child, “What would be fun for dinner tonight, a birdie uttapam or a pasta salad? If you have two kids each one gets to choose by turn.
7. As far as possible, avoid using food as a reward. So if your child has aced a spelling test, you could take him for an outing or get him a small toy, instead of heading to the nearest Mac Donald outlet. This will help him not to associate good times with junk food.
So with a dash of creativity, a pinch of imagination, a generous sprinkle of patience and a delicate garnish of variety; you can make mealtimes a time to rejuvenate both the body and mind of your child.