Thank you for taking part in our Facebook conversation last night with nutrition expert Julia Wolman. There were some very interesting questions, here are some of them and the answers from Julia. If you still have questions or would like to speak to Julia on a one to one basis please visit her website http://www.teenytummies.com/
My 2 year old eats NO vegetables. Will not even try. Used to be able to mix them into mince or mashed potato but cannot trick him anymore! I always put the vegetable on his plate even if he doesn’t eat it. How can I get him to try and test them? He will eat grapes, strawberries, apples and any smoothie but new fruit also a struggle. He won’t eat hummus or anything that I could get him to dip into. I have tried cocktail stick vegetable skewers and raw and cooked…….help please!!!
Hi Sarah, thanks for your questions, this is such a common concern. Unwillingness to try new foods peaks around the age of 2, there’s nothing you can do to change this as its a normal part of development, growing independence & assertiveness etc. Great that you keep putting the veggies on his plate – carry on doing this as repeated exposure is a proven researched technique. Don’t put lots on though – just a couple of peas, 1 stick of carrot, or 1 small broccoli floret. Fun games like Eeny Meeny Miny Mo could make it fun for him to try, and take a piece yourself and show him that you are enjoying eating the veggies too. Keep this light-hearted relaxed approach going and when he’s ready he may have a try. Another thing to do is offer different fruits and veggies in various forms, e.g grated carrot in sandwiches as well as raw sticks or cooked circles. Oranges peeled, and on the skin in wedges. Corn on the cob, as well as tinned sweetcorn. Funny faces, sweet or savoury muffins, soups, tomato & veg pasta sauces… Also do you give a vitamin supplement? Something like Abidec is recommended for all 1-5 year olds as they are notoriously fussy and can be a useful nutritional safeguard. Good luck.
My 5 year old is temperamental and some days sits and eats all if her dinner and some days nothing at all, won’t even try anything? Do we make her sit there until she eats or let it go? Sets bad example to siblings!
Hi Sally. Absolutely don’t make her sit there until she eats it. Young children are very good at knowing if they are hungry or not (although we think we know best!) Mealtimes should last no more than 20-30 mins max so if she really doesn’t want it then remove the uneaten food without comment and tell her that’s it until breakfast. Sounds harsh but it’s important to be consistent in this approach. By the way, this 20-30 mins includes dessert too which should always be offered regardless of how much of the first course is eaten. Don’t draw attention to her and then it shouldn’t become too much of an issue for her siblings. Hope this helps.
I’m afraid if she gets desert without eating her main then they will all try the same thing!
Yes I can totally understand this. I would encourage her to at least have a try of everything on her plate first, but remember to pay as little attention to her as possible during her meal. When the others have eaten what they want of their main course, simply say “Ok everyone its time for dessert” and then offer the fruit, yogurt or whatever it is. Don’t use it as a reward for eating the mains, or withhold it as a punishment for not eating it. Just be matter of fact about it. When your 5yo realises there is no power struggle or game, she is more likely to start eating her main course if she is genuinely hungry for it. Also Sally, have you had much success with sticker charts or other reward strategies? I have a 5yo who is very incentivised by stickers at the moment – he has to collect 10 before having access to a new app he wants on my phone! Whatever motivates your daughter could be used in a reward scheme at dinner time. Good luck.
Question…. My 3 year old twins have a very healthy appetite but sometimes still say they are hungry. How do I know if I am giving them the correct portion size? My daughter can eat almost a whole punnet of grapes in a day!!
Hi Lynn. Good question! Portion sizes aren’t set in stone for young children as they all have very different appetites. As a general message though, if you are concerned about overfeeding getting their weight monitored is the first thing to do. Otherwise, I would use common sense as to how much seems enough – then, if you clean them up and say lunch/supper is finished and they are happy to go and play then that’s your cue that they’ve had enough. There’s some useful information on toddler portion sizes on the Infant & Toddler Forum website – check out the resource “Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers” – I think you’ll find it quite helpful.
Hi Julia. My 4 year old is the queen of fussy eating. Whilst she eats a fairly varied diet overall (ish), we have identified that she has what seems to be a phobia of new foods and won’t try anything new. She was exclusively breastfed and ‘baby led’ weaned like her little brother (who eats everything!) but she has been fussy like this since about 2yrs old. It literally happened over night. Any suggestions?
Hi Naomi, really common and is actually known in the field as “food neophobia”. She should be starting to grow out of it by 4 years… Does she drink much milk? It could be that she’s just not hungry enough to try new foods. Does she eat any better when she has play dates? Peer influence is becoming important at this age. Also give her a vitamin supplement as a nutritional safeguard e.g. Abidec. Hope this helps.
She doesn’t drink much milk these days apart from at breakfast time. Where she may have around 100 – 150ml on her cereal in the morning. She might tell us she’s really hungry but when she comes to the table and sees something she’s not sure about, she says that she’s no longer hungry. She rarely eats anything at other people’s houses.
Ok well bear in mind that a “portion” for over 1’s is about 100-120ml (3-4oz) milk. Would be good to know a bit more about how you have managed her fussiness over the past 2 years – have you found it stressful?
Stressful? Definitely. Happy to admit that I have good and bad days with dealing with it. In our house we try and praise positive things and ignore negative ones so if she does try a small mouthful of something she gets praised. If she won’t try the new thing, then in theory we don’t make a fuss about it but it doesn’t always work that way! it’s very frustrating. Yoghurt and fruit are always available for desert irrespective of what eaten.
It really sounds like you are doing everything by the book and as I’d advise, so well done. It’s really stressful when our kids don’t eat what we want them to (I have two fairly fussy eaters of my own so can empathise!) but, hard as it is in the moment, please remember that pressured mealtimes and parental anxiety doesn’t help – this has been well researched by psycholoigists, its not just an opinion. Just keep it stress-free, fun and positive, and make sure she isn’t filling up on snacks too close to mealtimes. Also Naomi, you might find it helpful to keep a weekly food diary as it might even show she eats more than you realise 😉 I can always help you with this on a 1-2-1 basis if you’d interested in further support… Sticker rewards can really help at this age – maybe she needs to collect 10 stickers (one for each new food she tries, no matter how small the nibble!) to receive a bigger but tangible reward – something that will be very motivating for her…? Rewarding with stickers is a well-researched proven strategy, but you have to be consistent using it.
Curious about the whole nut allergy debate whilst pregnant! First child no nuts but current advice is yes to nuts! Is there any real research or evidence one way or the other?
Hi Amanda, really good question and its a very vague area because research is on going. If you or baby’s father have no allergies (including hayfever, asthma, eczema) then its probably better to avoid peanuts in pregnancy – at least until any more conclusive evidence is published!
Little bit different but I am always in a ‘diet’ and often eat different food to the rest of the family – will this have any effect on the children’s eating habits?
Hi Emma. As long as your children see you enjoying your food and learn from you that mealtimes are happy, sociable and positive occasions then your dieting shouldn’t be a problem. Probably a good idea that they don’t hear you talking about your diets or your weight though.
My 3 year old seemingly hates every fruit I have tried to give her. Although she does likes vegetables. Should I worry? Are smoothies ok as an alternative?
Hi Penny, well for most parents its often the other way around! No need to worry – fruit and vegetables fall into the same food group. Keep offering and smoothies now and then are ok but I wouldn’t recommend them too often as can be high in sugar and quite filling, which can reduce appetite for meals.
Hi Julia my doctor recently said my daughter was borderline anemic… he said that it was probably age, (5) and fussiness of diet (probably true). She is snacking on dried apricots (not everyday) and eats red meat with occasional forcings of broccoli. Do you have any tips or other suggestions or in fact how much of these things should she be eating? Thank you.
Hi Clare, 2-3 times a day of either meat/chicken/fish or meat alternatives e.g. eggs, pulses/lentiles etc should be sufficient for keeping her iron intake up. Also make sure her breakfast cereal is fortified with iron (check the ingredients list) and give her a vitamin C source with all meals as that helps with the iron absorption. Eg. Weetabix with strawberries. Hope this helps.
Thank you all for taking part and look out for our next expert take over on our Facebook group, coming soon!