You’ve got enough on your plate (pardon the pun!) organising a magical Christmas for the family without having to worry about fussy eating and mealtime routines. Here’s my top tips for making mealtimes more manageable this festive season….
1.Go with the flow:
Mealtime routines are often disrupted at this time of year. There might be buffets, copious snacks or meals served at unusual times of the day. All of these things are likely to affect your child’s appetite and throw any usual mealtime routine out the window. And that’s OK! Put trust in your child to know how much food they need to eat. Pressurising a child to eat when they are not hungry can result in anxiety and stress for both of you and teaches them to override their natural satiety (fullness) cues. Allow them to stay in tune with their own appetite. Even if they haven’t eaten much, don’t worry. They’ll make up for it another day once the excitement and chaos of Christmas has calmed down and normal routine has resumed!
2. Set your expectations:
If you serve brussel sprouts once a year, at Christmas, don’t expect your child to gobble them up right away. Repeated exposure is key for fussy eaters and it can take around 12-15 attempts before a child will try a new food. It will help if your child is allowed to explore these new foods by smelling, touching or even having a little nibble, but try not to pressurise them to eat. Role modelling is also a useful way to encourage children to try new foods so if you and the rest of family try something new, they may be more inclined to have a go themselves.
3. Keep portions small:
It’s tempting to fill up the plate with loads of delicious looking food in the hope that your child will eat just a small amount, but large portions can be overwhelming for a fussy eater and may put them off trying any food at all. Keep the portions small. You can always offer second helpings if necessary.
4. Don’t withhold pudding:
Withholding pudding until your child has eaten their main meal can create a food hierarchy. The pudding becomes the reward for eating the main meal. Essentially this implies that the main meal isn’t as appealing and that the pudding is the ‘good stuff’, ‘the treat’, ‘the reward’. Go ahead with pudding regardless of how much they’ve eaten but keep portions small.
5. Have fun!
A few disapproving looks from Great Aunt Lizzie because your child is rolling sprouts across the table is not a big deal. It’s your Christmas too so don’t worry, embrace the madness and enjoy yourselves – food is fun after all!