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Frustrated by a fussy toddler? You can beat your picky eater at his own game with our tips to ensure your child eats a healthy diet
When the pasta bake or child-friendly curry you’ve so lovingly slaved over is declared ‘yucky’, it’s tempting to tear your hair out and feed them oven chips and beans.
But don’t despair. There are ways to persuade your child to eat a healthy and varied diet…
Same old, same old is OK
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with potatoes and beans, so if that’s what they want, even if you think it’s boring, there’s no harm feeding this to them every other day.
It’s super-easy to make home-baked chips (skin-on, tossed in a tiny amount of oil), and you can buy beans with reduced levels of salt and sugar. Bingo – that’s a healthy, nutritious meal. Kids like routine, so having a regular dinner that you know ticks the boxes is reassuring for both of you.
Dangle the carrot
Very few children like eating veg, especially the green stuff, so try different ways to sneak it into them. How about a spinach and apple smoothie (swamp juice!) or courgette grated into home-made tomato sauce, and in soups with sweet parsnip, carrot or squash?
Make food as attractive and colourful as possible, and have fun with it. If making smiley faces works for you, go for it. Making a mash mountain with sausage ‘trees’ or arranging sandwich squares in a pretty pattern with cucumber crescents will always raise a smile.
Don’t get hung up on serving interesting meals or even hot meals. A two-year-old doesn’t need to appreciate fine cuisine. If they prefer raw veg to cooked, serve raw carrot or pepper sticks. If they want to grate cheese over their rice, why shouldn’t they?
Keep introducing new ingredients, and show them how yummy they are by eating and appreciating them yourself. If you’re a faddy eater, it’s likely your children will pick up on it and follow suit. Eventually – it may take a while, so be patient – they will want to try something new, like a runner bean.
Peer pressure works wonders, so if you know other toddlers who are more adventurous, invite them for tea.
Do it together
Rather than reach for the ready meals, try to make home-made versions of all your old favourites – chicken goujons, burgers, bolognese sauce – and get your child involved in the process wherever possible. That way you can control salt, fat and sugar levels, and your toddler will be much more inclined to eat the finished result.
They can’t chop the veg or man the frying pans, but they can help you top pizzas or coat fish fingers (first flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs) before they’re baked. Loads of messy fun! And it tastes much better, too.
By Anna Crane