New research has found young fussy eaters are frustrating their parents by wasting huge amounts of food. Reporter Jo Davies looks at the best ways to stop poor eating.
With food prices sky-high, young fussy eaters are costing the nation’s families a fortune.
New Mumsnet research shows 86 per cent of parents end up throwing away part of their children’s main meal, even though nearly half (44 per cent) of mums and dads spend more on food now than a year ago.
Separate research, from the European Toddler Nutrition Index, shows UK toddlers are the most likely in Europe to refuse food (69 per cent), with 43 per cent of UK mums letting their toddler get away with not eating certain foods, and 38 per cent giving in to their child’s food refusal within the first five minutes.
Not surprisingly, toddlers’ fussy eating leaves half of mums frustrated, another 38 per cent worried, and some even angry (12 per cent).
The Mumsnet survey, which was commissioned to launch Food February, a month-long celebration of food and nutrition on the parents’ networking site, found only 12 per cent of parents have a rule that their children eat everything on their plate, and two-thirds (66 per cent) of mums and dads finish off their children’s leftovers.
For the sake of parents’ purses and peace of mind, Tasha Jones, healthy school meal advocate and owner of Grange Fitness Studio, shares the techniques she’s developed as a mum-of-three to get round the problem of fussy eating.
“My personal opinion is it can be a real problem for families,” says Tasha, 37.
“Having been a parent with children who became fussy about different foods and flavours I found that when the children were small they tended to eat lots of different things and then go into a fussy phase.”
Many toddlers go through a fussy eating phase but it’s how you deal with that phase that dictates how long it lasts.
Tasha’s approach to tackling her daughters’ picky eating was to be persistent and continue to serve food her children had previously refused.
Studies show that it can take up to 20 attempts at trying a food before a child will like or eat it – so parents shouldn’t give up on certain foods.
“You do need to taste food at least 15 times before you can make an opinion on whether you do or do not like it because your palate changes over time,” she says.
To get round this Tasha is a big believer in disguising vegetables so that children are still getting the nutrients without the table tantrums.
“Try making things in different ways,” Tasha advises.
“A friend of mine doesn’t eat vegetables but does like pizza. Last year I bought a pizza stone to make homemade pizza. I made a tomato sauce with pepper, onion, mushroom and carrots finely chopped in it and she loved it. I use the same tomato-based sauce when making bolognese.”
In a bid to encourage good eating and behaviour, many toddlers are rewarded with junk food, with the Mumsnet survey finding 48 per cent of parents would bribe their children to eat vegetables.
“If you’re giving them a pudding it should be something healthy like a yoghurt or fruit, regardless of whether they eat their dinner or not, but it shouldn’t be cakes or biscuits,” says British Dietetic Association spokeswoman Melissa Little.
“If you really want to reward them, give them stickers or a trip to the park or something similar.
“If you give them a cake or biscuit for eating their dinner, it’s like saying the treat is the best thing in the world and the dinner they’ve eaten was like a punishment to eat – it puts different weightings on foods.”
Melissa warns that many of the foods children turn their noses up at are foods their parents don’t like either – so to get the child to eat a particular food, it’s helpful for mum or dad to eat the food themselves too, and eat it together as a family.
“You are your child’s biggest role model, you’re the person they learn their eating skills from and they have to see you cooking and eating at the table to learn the correct behaviour,” says Melissa.
“Eating together as a family creates really good mealtime behaviour. Just say to them you’ll have what the rest of the family have, and if you don’t like it, tough.”
By Jo Davies
Source: NW Evening Mail - http://goo.gl/xBDh9