Help, my child won’t eat

As far as you’ve seen, all she’s eaten in the last few days is two apple slices, three spoonfuls of yoghurt, and a rusk, most of which landed up inside the dog. Not to worry. As long as she seems happy and energetic, she’s probably getting enough nutrition. Do beware, though that’s she’s not filling up on biscuits or crisps between meals, so missing out on the vitamins and minerals

The worst thing you can do is make mealtime a war zone, or force her to finish what’s on her plate. Here are some tips that will encourage her to make healthy choices.

Offer the good stuff
  • Provide a range of nutritious food and offer your toddler a choice.
  • Allow your toddler to help prepare the meal. It takes longer but encourages interest in the food.
  • Keep servings of food small and allow your toddler to ask for more. Remove uneaten food without comment.
  • Avoid too much fruit juice as sugar can take away the appetite for other foods.
  • Don't fill a child up on milk or fruit juice just before a meal.
  • Don’t use dessert as a bribe to eat the rest of the meal. This makes dessert too special. If you do have desserts make sure they are nutritious such as fruit or milk puddings. Give small serves.
  • Having a friend over for a meal often encourages the toddler to eat.
  • Vary the places you give your toddler meals. For example at your toddler’s own table in the playhouse; a picnic in the garden; or as a buffet where everyone helps themselves to what they want.
  • Give your toddler the main part of his evening meal early (around 17h00) so he is not too tired to eat. He can still have a small portion of the meal with the family later if you like to eat together.
  • A cold meal such as meat, bread and fruit or salad is nutritious. Raw grated vegetables are just as healthy as cooked. Or you could freeze part of the evening meal from the day before and reheat it for your toddler.
  • Do not ever try to force a toddler to eat. It can cause choking and make the child dislike the food. Adults would not like to be forced to eat food that they don’t like.
  • Keep a relaxed eating environment and leave the eating up to your toddler.

Relaxed and happy mealtimes
  • Let your child explore food by touching, and expect some mess.
  • Let children feed themselves, and give help if needed.
  • Let toddlers eat with the family, whenever possible, so they can watch and copy others, try the family foods and enjoy company while eating.
  • Don’t have distractions like the TV on.
  • Talk pleasantly to your child at mealtimes - not just about food.
  • Don't ask your child to eat quickly, try to let them experience and learn from meal times.

What's mealtime like in your house? Is your toddler co-operative?
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