A lot of children struggle with food aversions. “Fussy” or challenging eating is very common in younger toddlers but a quarter of children struggle to grow out of it.
In today’s busy society we often hurry to get food on the table, pouches or jars of baby food are easier and kids eat earlier than their parents. They aren’t getting as much exposure to food and cooking as we used to. Exposure to food is so important. If children don’t get a chance to explore food, they are less likely to eat it and more likely to develop food aversions.
One way to get kids comfortable around food and eventually eating more is by getting them cooking, it helps them to overcome textural issues, food aversions and sensory overload when it comes to actually eat the food. Start small, give them a spoon and get them to mix, then get them to do a bit of touching the food: push it off the chopping board into the pan etc. Work your way up to peeling food and supervised grating and chopping with a child-safe knife.
Cooking with you gives your child control – it gives them the chance to choose what shape the vegetables are (sticks, slices or even grated), whether they’re eaten raw and crunchy or cooked and soft. Giving these options and exposure to different foods and the way they are cooked and prepared can make a massive difference to your challenging eater, it gives them a chance to explore and try food textures that otherwise they might not have had. Never assume your child won’t eat something: have something new available to try as often as possible because consistency is key and this is a fantastic opportunity to offer new food in new ways in a positive and low-key way. I love hearing back from clients who tell me their child is starting to ask to try new food. You can read some of the testimonials here.
Cooking can also be fun, a big adventure of littlies – who doesn’t love being trusted enough to cut food or use one of the appliances like a chopper, blender or anything else with a button! During my time both working with children, and as a parent of two young children, I have seen the biggest changes in those who start helping prepare food. I noticed that the children began to really enjoy preparing food, grating carrots and cheese, peeling potatoes and carrots, opening cans, stirring and chopping food… What a fantastic first step! Soon they felt more comfortable around the food and ready to start tasting it.
It’s also a great way to introduce single food to children who become anxious about “mixed” food as they can see exactly what’s in it and can try the different foods one at a time. If they try and like one food, keep a bit seperate for them until they’re happier to eat mixed up food.