How to get your child to eat lunch! Tips

child to eat lunch

When kids don’t eat their lunch at school or daycare it can be very stressful and frustrating for the parents. You’re not there with them so there’s nothing you can do about their eating habits!

 

There are 2 extremes that people often speak to me about.

 

  • The overhelpful kindy/daycare

These are the very strict teachers who force the child to eat everything in their lunchbox before they can leave the table. Although they have good intentions, this often causes a lot of stress for the child left sitting by themselves and actually makes them more reluctant to try that food again.

 

Tips:

Make sure the teachers know your routine and strategies and are happy to go along with that.

Don’t give them too much choice or too much food. They will feel happier if you give them less food that they can realistically finish. Build up the amount once they’re in the habit of eating the food in their lunchbox.

Don’t give them something new that they will struggle to taste, far less eat. If you book a consultation we can find the best time in your day to try new food in a stress-free, relaxed environment.

 

  • School distractions

School and daycares are very busy places. Kids finish eating and rush off to play, so yours does too – whether or not they’ve eaten much lunch.

 

Tips:

Encourage your child to help you choose some lunch food (from  choice you give them). Give them small amounts so they get in the habit of eating a few foods in there then start to bulk up the amount.

 

There are so many other things to take into account so if you would like some more details or you would like to find out what Little Bites could do for your child book a free consultation or send me an email to [email protected]

 

Food to try for slow eaters or those not interested in eating lots

Remember that for challenging eaters, something is better than nothing and trying new food will be most successful at home, then can be put into lunchboxes.

Savoury muffins

Sweet veggie muffins

Wraps

Wholemeal bread

Scrolls (vegemite, cheese, pizza with amazing disappearing spinach pizza sauce)

Protein – cheese, meat – cold chicken, ham, cold sausage/sausage roll

Yoghurt – can have fruit pieces/stewed fruit, oats etc on top

Banana or other more filling fruits

sushi

Dips like hummus, guacamole or sour cream for rice cakes or veggies

Quiche

Eggs in various form

Plain popcorn

Homemade muesli bars

Pasta with a sauce, meatballs, pesto, even with shredded chicken and cream cheese stirred together

nuts/seeds/trail mix/peanut butter (depending on the allergy rules at your school)

Salmon (my kids favourite) or tuna

 

Things to avoid overloading on

 

Food that will give them a little sugar rush then make them crash just in time to try to learn should be minimised. Nutritionally empty foods won’t give them what they need to get through the day and you’ll end up with the healthier food left in the lunchbox and a HANGRY child at pickup or dinnertime.

Some carbs are important in our diet but if your child just has carbs, salt and sugar at lunch they’ll suffer later on in the day. When giving them less nutritious food in their lunch box, give smaller amounts or they’ll fill up on this and ignore the slow release energy foods that are important for learning.

 

What to do when they constantly tell you “I’m not hungry”

not hungry

There are different reasons why you hear those 3 little words you dread “I’m not hungry”. A few people have asked recently what to feed their child who is never hungry to keep them healthy and growing. Sometimes it’s tempting to give them all the chippies and biscuits they want when they do ask for food but we really need to get some nutrition into them when we get the chance.

 

Medication

Some medications cause loss of appetite. For these kids, we need to work on high (good) fat food to get in all the nutrition and keep them growing. With a challenging eater, this can be tricky! Have a look at my list at the bottom of the page of some great foods to feed your child who’s “not hungry”.

If you don’t know why your child is never hungry, there are a couple things to check.

Take a food diary for a week

Snacking can be a sneaky cause for loss of appetite. Sometimes kids can eat way more than we realise through snacking, especially when they help themselves – and usually they don’t choose the food we’d like them to. If they are constantly grazing but never hungry for dinner this is something to check out.

Even if they aren’t snacking a lot, maybe they’re snacking too close to meals.

Do they have a Magnesium deficiency?

If your child is never hungry and doesn’t even snack, they could have a Magnesium deficiency which can cause loss of appetite. If your child is never hungry this could be something to check.

Alternatively it could be that they’re used to eating small portions through the day as that’s what their body has got used to.

Food to help them gain/maintain weight

Try to replace refined sugar and nutritionless snacks with cubes of cheese, slices of banana and apple slices with peanut butter on.

Use full-fat milk with their cereal and to drink.

Greek yoghurt is full of good fats. Get the unsweetened one and add your own frozen berries, apple chunks, stewed fruits or honey, sprinkle oats or seed on top… (or buy the flavoured ones but they obviously have more sugar)

Porridge: protein, calcium, magnesium… there’s so much in it that’s great for you!

Cheese

Peanut butter

Bananas

Beans

Eggs

Fish

Root vegetables

Smoothies: put in oats, banana, greek yoghurt and maybe some veggies too?

Banana pancakes: 1 mashed banana, 1 whisked egg: mix them together then fry

How to get your child to eat dinner: some tips

get your child to eat dinner

Is dinner time stressful?
Is it the same food over and over?
Is anything new uneaten?
Do you make multiple meals?
Do you worry about how much food is wasted?  Does it feel like you just can’t get your child to eat dinner?

If dinner time is stressful there are ways to turn it around. If it’s stressful for you there’s every chance it’s also stressful for your challenging eater too. Stress will make them more resistant to the foods that are being forced onto them. Here are some things to think about and some tips to get your child to eat dinner.

Does your child eat variety through the day?

If your child eats a fruit and veg filled smoothie for breakfast, carrot sticks and apple at afternoon tea and cucumber, grapes and an egg at lunch and some meat at some point through the day then you can be a little more lenient at dinner. Lots of younger children get very tired by dinner; when they start school this can get even worse.  At kindy and especially school, kids spend all day being well behaved and learning new things. Unfortunately, when they get home they are exhausted and by dinner time trying or learning something new is the last thing on their mind!

If their diet’s OK but through the day but could be better, you can squeeze some more fruits, veggies or high protein, high iron food in earlier in the day, before they burn out. If they struggle to eat healthy food at all you can book a free initial consultation with me to find out how Little Bites can help your child.

Does your child have an aversion to mixed food?

Stir fry, cottage pie, spaghetti bolognaise… Sometimes it’s much easier for challenging eaters to cope if you put the separate ingredients on their plate (not touching), and it’s not extra work for you! I actually have a client who came back to me and said that since starting our programme her son has learned how to try new food and will now try most things she offers him at dinner – as long as it’s on a separate plate. Check out what results other clients have had here.

Does your child have an aversion to certain textures?

What’s the one your child likes? There’s no point offering a crunch lover something very wet or soft if your main aim is that they eat “something healthy” at dinner time. Match it to your child’s preferences if you can. Want them to eat a carrot? Offer it raw or lightly steamed, even grated! If they love wet, liquidy food offer soup at dinner. If you do that, it’s much more likely that you’ll get your child to eat dinner.

Does your child snack through the day?

Children who snack are much less likely to eat at dinner time. They also rarely get hungry enough to try the new food that you’d love to add to their diet.

Some Tips

Do not bribe with pudding!

Bribing with other food reinforces “yummy” and “yucky” food. The minute you stop bribing, they will usually stop trying or eating new food.

Give small portions

I know you want them to eat more not less, but if you give really small portions, you’re setting your kids up for success. They can see it’s achievable. If they feel proud of themselves for finishing their 3 peas and you praise them for that it’s much better for their mindset than giving them more than they can finish and having them feel like they can never finish everything. If they finish a small amount of food and want more of something that’s fine. You can build up the amount and how often they have them once you’ve taken that first small step, and that first little bite.

Give small choices

Will we have peas or corn?

Which colour plate do you want; red or green?

Do you want this on top or beside the rice?

If you give 2 options kids can cope, if you give them too much control or too many choices they can’t cope, you’ll waste a lot of time and food and nothing will get any better. Small choices make the child feel in control but not overwhelmed, that’s really inportant when it comes to getting your child to eat dinner.

Don’t say “finish what’s on your plate”

They can finish when they’re full (but they’re full so nothing else after that unless it’s some fruit/veggie sticks or a yoghurt a couple hours later)
Kids need to listen to their body and finishing what’s on their plate, no matter how much or little is on their will set up bad habits. It’s better to give smaller amounts and then ask “do you need more of anything or are you full?”

Why has my child stopped eating?

child stopped eating

Why do they stop eating?

There are very few things your toddler or young child has control over. The big things they can control are their food, clothes and sleep… It can be so frustrating when they suddenly refuse to eat something they’ve always loved (or to sleep or get dressed!) but that’s what most kids do… they assert their control in some way. When they reach a point in their lives where they have realised that they have choices, giving them the control they are demanding is how you can get everything back on track! If you’re wondering “why has my child stopped eating?” then find out below.

Give them control

They crave control and they’re making life more stressful for both of you, so give them some control.

Control doesn’t have to mean nuggets and biscuits for dinner – give a choice of 2 vegetables, the colour of the plate, what activity to do after lunch is finished, small controlled choices are the way to go. Without choices your child will keep pushing in the way they know how – by refusing to eat what you’re offering. Your child stopped eating to gain control, now they have choices they can eat what you offer and still think they’re the one in control

Consistency and fun with food are also vital. You need to keep with it, small steps are better than none and it all helps to build up to the point where they’re willing or even asking to try new food! There are children that require more support and might not “grow out of it” by themselves. If you’re wondering how to know if it’s just a phase check out this article I wrote.

Check out our testimonials to see the changes other parents like you have noticed after trying Little Bites strategies.

What to feed your challenging eater

what to feed picky eaters

After our Facebook texture challenge last week I hope some of you understand a little bit better the types of textures your child likes, and the textures that they find it more difficult to eat.

Texture is so important when it comes to expanding our kids’ diets and what to feed picky eaters.

When people ask “what should I feed my picky eater?” online I see often people suggest “hide veggies in smoothies”. If your child hates wet food, seeds, little lumps or drinking thick liquids then they won’t touch the smoothie with a barge pole. It’s the same for every food and texture. All kids are different and all challenging eaters are different. What works for one, another will dislike. When it comes to what to feed picky eaters, texture is key. When I make up your strategies and resources I look at the food diaries to see what food is being eaten, offered, and rejected. While it’s so important to always offer tastes, (never assume they won’t like it because that could be something they taste willingly and really enjoy) it’s great to know which way to cook it!

It is so much easier to match the food you want them to eat to their texture to get them eating more variety before you start pushing the textural boundaries and expecting “crunchy” kids to eat “mushy” food straight away.

Tips:

Think outside the box and offer frozen blueberries and raw or grated veggies and air fry up some meatballs for crunch lovers (and you can hide veggies in there for extra nutrition).

Offer smoothies, yoghurt with stewed fruit or smooth soup full of meat and veggies for kids that like wet food.

Muffins with veggies sweetened with honey, fruit, meat etc and pasta bakes with lots of veggies and soft meat are often better for those who feel more comfortable with soft food.

Think about their eating over a day and week: do they eat more at lunch or dinner? Maybe that’s the best time for them or they prefer that style of meal.

Take a note of what they eat over a week – it’s easier to see textural preferences and people are often surprised by the variety (or if you think “that looks bad written down!” sign up for a free inital consultation)

Surviving a holiday with a challenging eater

There are lots of different types of holidays and they can all be a nightmare for parents who struggle to get their child to eat.  Here are some tips for surviving a holiday with your “fussy” eater. Get through aeroplane food, buffets, family dinners and unknown restaurants!

At home: at the batch, camping or just a family BBQ

Even staying at home can be stressful. There are take-a-plate events, BBQs, camping or staying at a batch with family or friends. They all come with unknown food and the potential for a meltdown. Maybe Auntie bringing the potato salad puts in an egg, there’s sauce on the chicken or there’s no oven to cook the nuggets! Here are some tips on surviving a holiday at home, at the batch or camping.

Tips

  • Plan ahead: if you know your child likes a certain potato bake, vegetable dish, type of meat or salad bring that instead of a pudding to bring a plate events. Bring them a little lunchbox with some food they like and some of the healthier food they like.
  • Keep opening doors: Always offer something new and give a couple choices. If you assume they won’t try so don’t offer then they definitely won’t try it!
  • Eat early: it’s much less stressful to eat when your child isn’t overtired and they’re much more likely to try new food.
  • Give lots of praise for success. A few bites are better than none.
  • Whether you’re camping or visiting, make sure there’s going to be something they can eat. Small amounts of what they’re used to and small amounts of something new is perfect. They can always ask for more afterwards.

Going Abroad

Going abroad with a challenging eater can be daunting. There’s aeroplane food, different cultures and tastes and deciding on a restaurant can be hit or miss! It can be the highlight of your trip… or a nightmare! Here are some tips on surviving a holiday abroad.

Tips

  • Plan ahead: if your child hates spicy food avoid countries where you’re going to struggle to find more mild tastes.
  • Eat early: it’s much less stressful to eat when you don’t have busy crowds, long waits or a big audience…
  • Keep opening doors: Always offer something new and give a couple choices. If you assume they won’t try so don’t offer then they definitely won’t try it!
  • Give them a taste of what’s to come before you go. Offer small tastes of the type of food you expect to eat. You can go on holiday knowing what sorts of food they will eat and restaurants you can visit and where you should avoid.
  • Give lots of praise for success. A few bites are better than none. Maybe they can choose the restaurant the next night?
  • Check the menu before you go in. Is there a restaurant nearby with an option they’ll eat? Remember this is their holiday too and you don’t want to make it any more stressful than you have to so have some nights in a place where they can relax.

Going on a cruise/Buffet food

The thought of a buffet for a week or two can be terrifying with a child who likes everything to be “right”. BUT it can be the perfect opportunity to get your challenging eater to try something new. The best thing about buffets is that there’s a huge selection of food, usually presented in different ways, you can take really small amounts AND there’s no extra washing up if your child wants a clean plate for each new food they try. Here are some tips on surviving a holiday with buffet food.

Tips

  • Plan ahead: find out what type of food is served where.
  • Eat early: it’s much less stressful to eat when you don’t have busy crowds, long queues or a big audience…
  • Offer small tastes of new food (yes you can go up and get just 4 peas). Separate plates, offering different ways of preparing that new food can be perfect. Try a few different ways of cooking the same food to see if there’s a texture they prefer.
  • Keep opening doors: Always offer something new and give a couple choices. If you assume they won’t try so don’t offer then they definitely won’t try it!
  • Give lots of praise for success. A few bites are better than none. Maybe they can have a break the next night?
  •  Remember this is their holiday too and you don’t want to make it any more stressful than you have to so have some nights in a place where they can relax. Learning to try new food should be positive so don’t overdo it.

If you want to get your challenging eater trying new food book a free initial consultation or check out these testimonials.

Help! They’ve stopped eating!

stopped eating getting enough nutrients

Sometimes things happen in life to make our challenging eaters eat even less! Maybe they’ve been making great progress but suddenly stopped eating the food you’ve been working on, or maybe they’re dropping food that you rely on to give them some nutrients. Here’s why that could be happening and how to deal with it.

 

They’re bored of the same food everyday

This is a massive problem for those kids who struggle to try new food. They become bored of the same food every day but can’t replace it with anything else so they eat less variety. Eventually parents are stuck with a couple of fruits, vegetables and meats or dinners they can sserve up. Little Bites strategies are perfect for those kids who would love to have a sleepover and eat the same as their friends, are starting to get bored of the same food every day, or are stuck in a rut when it comes to tasting food. If your child has stopped eating certain food groups get in touch to see how Little Ites can help.

Sickness

When kids are sick they go off their food. It is normal that they’ve stopped eating as much as usual but if you’re concerned they’ll get into worse eating habits, try to make sure that the food offered while they’re sick will help them get better, improve their health but will still be eaten or drunk. Relax your expectations about how much they will eat, let them eat when they are hungry but try to have those few healthy foods they will eat – whether that is that 1 vegetable, yoghurt, smoothies, a particular fruit –  pureed, sliced and peeled… however they find it easiest. They aren’t feeling great so make it as easy for them as you can. Just make sure that when they’re feeling better you start up their strategies again and gently work back up to where you were.

Changes

Sometimes we’re super busy at work, we move house, we have a holiday… When there’s something that means we stop working on their diet or the child has a bit of a regression and stopped eating so much due to these changes, that is normal. I tell many people that if there’s a day when you’re stressed and rushed, take a little break to make sure that trying new food doesn’t become a negative experience. It’s got to be something your child grows to enjoy and become motivated by. We’re all about changing attitudes towards food, not force feeding so trying new food needs to be fun and relaxed.

If you need a little break while you move house or write lots of reports at work or are away on holiday that’s absolutely fine, just remember to get back to it as soon as you can because consistency is key. The more you do it, the easier and quicker it will become. Soon your child will be eating a much bigger range of food!  Check out the testimonials to see what changes you can expect.

 

To find out more about Little Bites strategies and how I can help your challenging eater book a free initial consultation here.

Get your child eating healthy food: build on their success

fussy eater Get your child eating healthy food

One thing to think about when you want to get your child eating healthy food and overcoming eating aversions is where do they have the most success? This will be your starting point.

Is it in the quiet or is it where there are a lot of distractions?

A lot of kids need to have time to process what’s happening and distractions can be off-putting… but, because every child is different, for others a distraction helps them avoid overthinking it and stops the fear and anxiety building up. Get your child eating healthy food by really thinking about which works best for your child?

Is it at school or daycare or at home?

A lot of kids eat better at daycare, they eat at least some of what everyone else is. They want to be the same as their friends, they see it’s not scary. But because nothing works for all children, many eat better at home and eat hardly anything while at school, in restaurants or on holiday! Look for patterns to find when and where your challenging eater feels most comfortable eating, that will be the best situation to expand their diet and get your child eating healthy food.

What textures do they have most success with?

Food diaries are amazing at helping you see these patterns. If your child prefers crunchy food like crackers offer crunchy textures of the food groups they’re missing out of. Little Bites helps with recognising the textural and taste preferences and then identifying healthy nutritionally varied food that they will feel more  comfortable starting with. You need to get your child eating healthy food by helping them feel in control and giving them new food that is similar to the food they like best.

What time are they most happy to eat?

If they’re not a morning person a brand new breakfast probably isn’t the way to go, if they don’t eat anything at school, don’t expect them to suddenly start eating a food they’ve always turned their nose up at and if they’re over their day by dinner time that’s probably not going to work for you. I offer strategies that start as an activity and work with you to find the sweet spot in your day to get your child eating healthy food.

 

Get in touch for your free consultation to discuss how Little Bites can help your challenging eater and get rid of that dinner-time stress.

why I don’t say “fussy eater” or “picky eater”

fussy eater Get your child eating healthy food

Why I don’t say “fussy eater” or “picky eater”

 

You’ll probably have noticed that when I talk about the children I work with I say “challenging” or “selective” eater instead of “picky eater” or “fussy eater”. You might have wondered why. A fussy eater or picky eater implies that the child is making a choice to have such a limited diet. My clients don’t have “fussy eaters” that just want junk food and snacks. These children often physically can’t bring themselves to touch new food or have it on their plate. If you want to see if your child is  a picky eater or fussy eater check out this article.

Older challenging eaters sometimes tell their parents that they want to be able to eat what their friends are eating but just can’t! It’s so frustrating for them and their parents. Challenging eaters get bored of the food they eat day in day out. Diets get more restricted and parents become more worried… but the child just can’t force themselves to eat something new.

They’re all different

They aren’t being “picky” or “fussy”, they don’t just like something and are too stubborn to give it up! It’s also not just vegetables they can’t eat. These children can struggle to eat a range of food that fussy” or “picky” children would probably gulp down: sausages, chocolate, pizza, other brands of their favourite food. Some can even tell if you swap their chicken nugget for a different brand! Some children eat vegetables just fine but struggle with other food groups, or sometimes even getting them to eat anything at all. These are kids who would rather starve than eat something unknown. There is no one problem, one solution or one reasonwhy they feel this way.

Challenging eaters become anxious, have meltdowns, run away, shake or start gagging when the food is put down in front of them. It’s a real fear; either one that’s developed as a toddler or a food aversion that they’ve struggled with since they weaned as a baby.

What causes food aversions?

It’s certainly not just “how they’ve been brought up” and that’s shown by many of my clients have older or younger children who eat a huge variety.

A few of my clients have had medical issues, a choking episode, sensory issues or special needs that have caused them to develop aversions to certain foods or textures but other clients don’t know what set off this fear of unknown food in their child.

Want to see a way forward?

Clients tell me “you’ve made me feel so much better” when I tell them how Little Bites works. Little Bites uses small steps and little bites to gradually develop tastes for new food in a way that long-lasting changes to diets. It’s not an instant fix but many of my clients see those little changes happening very quickly.

I always make a point of telling you my success stories to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel, to see where you can get to with your challenging eater. I have worked with a number of children with sensory issues, ASD and other medical issues which have affected their attitude towards food and gone on to support them and their parents on the journey to a more varied and healthy diet.

What you can do

Join the Little Bites free support group so you can vent, ask for help, support others and realise how common selective eating is! One in 4 children don’t “grow out” of challenging eating behaviours but parents often find it embarrassing to talk to others about it. This leaves them all thinking they’re the only one. You’re not alone so come and join us and we can motivate and support you on your journey.

If you want to see how Little Bites can help your challenging eater, please arrange a free telephone consultation or send me an email at [email protected] or a message on the Little Bites Facebook page.