Working as a child weight management practitioner meant that I was faced with kids who are fussy eaters on a daily basis. Although not an easy nut to crack, working together with parents meant that I learnt some techniques which can help break down a few of those food barriers. Here are a few of my top tips:
1. Get them involved
Cooking is great fun and, in my experience, kids love to get involved! Let them look through recipe books which have good pictures and ask them to pick a recipe they would like to try that week; try to pick a book which has healthy recipes in it! Then pick a night where you have a little more time and get them involved in creating a meal. Depending on their age, there will be different things they can do; for example, peeling the carrots, weighing out some flour or stirring the bowl. This gives them ownership of the meal and will greatly increase the chances that they will eat it!
2. Let them know where foods come from
It is important that we all know where our food comes from and this information reduces the feeling of alienation that children may have, which can trigger food phobias. If you have enough space and time you can create the feeling of ownership and familiarity with fruits and vegetables by getting them to grow their own. I don't mean a whole vegetable patch but a row of carrots, a tomato plant or rhubarb. Choose something hardy that is easy to grow, not only will this educate them about where food comes from, but it will also get them outside and active.
3. Make it visual
I am the first to put my hands up and say that I am not great at presenting food, but where adults mainly eat by taste, children tend to choose to eat things that are more visually appealing. It doesn't need to be a work of art but make it a little more interesting. Make a face in their porridge using berries or make their broccoli look like trees by sticking them in the mash. It sounds silly but, trust me; they won't look at it in disgust but admiration!
4. Be patient
It is quite normal for children to go through a fussy stage of eating. Some people believe that this may be due to our caveman days when children's natural instinct was to be picky to avoid poisonous foods. Keep offering different foods, including the ones they say they don't like. Be a good role model and let them see you eating it and enjoying it too. Over time, they should come around. Remember it can take up to 15 attempts for someone to know if they really like a food or not.
Rose Constantine Smith is an AfN Associate Nutritionist based in London. Follow Rose on twitter: @Rose_Nutrition