Food Refusal: 5 Ways To Help
For more information on childhood nutrition and fussy eating you can read How to raise a healthy, happy eater from baby to school age, OR Boosting your basics our two bestselling books.
Read first: common causes for food refusal
When it comes to food refusal the reasons can be simple or complex. Sometimes the best way to start is to try and figure out what caused the fussy eating problem in the first place, and then you will be in a better position to resolve it. You may even find a cheeky older sibling has been telling a few nasty tales about broccoli. Here are some other ideas to help get you back on track to forming those all important positive food associations.
Let them grow it:
Whether you have a yard big enough for a veggie patch or a small sunny window ledge, there are many ways to provide an opportunity to learn nutrition through a hands-on connection to the food we eat.
- Start a small veggie patch and plant seasonal veggies
- Plant some herbs on the kitchen windowsill and use them when cooking
- Organise an edible garden activity with your children.
Buy food together:
Research has shown that children who grow, pick and cook their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Invite your children to do the grocery shopping with you. Or even better, head to a local food market where they can meet the growers and learn how to choose the ripest produce.
- Encourage your child to feel it, smell it, squeeze it and choose fresh ripe fruits and vegetables.
- Let your child choose a weekly vegetable ingredient to make for dinner.
- Plat a game of ‘guess the veggie’ when you are shopping with your kids.
Prepare it together
We believe the benefits of cooking in the kitchen are invaluable to the learning and development of your child. By simply enjoying the cooking process with your kids, you may find their newfound respect for food or food enjoyment will stop the fussy eating behaviour.
- Keep it safe and give simple, pre-planned tasks to keep them busy.
- Include cooking in their activity schedule – decorate some gingerbread men or make Christmas ornaments with salt dough.
- Encourage your children to help all aspects of mealtime including setting the table and clearing plates away.
Serve it differently
Changing the shape, colour, taste, and texture of your child’s foods can help with progression to new foods. Offer new foods with known and accepted foods. Children can find it confronting to be offered a whole plate of something new or something they have refused before. It’s better to not make a big deal about it; place the new food in among the old and have the expectation that they will try it.
- Steam it for a softer texture
- Serve it up in a picture or fancy shape
- Bake to bring out natural flavours
- Put it in a soup with some crunchy croutons
- Puree it and add it to sauces
Kids love to dip. Thankfully dips are quick and easy to make, and you can avoid the additives and preservatives found in many store bought varieties. The fun element of ‘dipping’ encourages kids to not only eat the goodness in the dip, but to eat raw vegetable sticks without even realising it.
- Dips can hide goodness and vegetables so fussy eaters are none the wiser
- You can introduce a range of new flavours and textures in a non-confronting way
- Use them as a sandwich base instead of butter, for a flavour and nutritional boost
- Dips transport well, so they are perfect for picnics or a fun addition to lunchboxes.
If you suspect your child has a medical concern that is affecting their appetite or causing food refusal we recommend you consult your medical practitioner for assessment, and referral to an appropriate health care provider eg dietitian, speech pathologist, occupational therapist or physiotherapist.Join us on Facebook for other foodie bits and pieces.