Food For Thought: How To Encourage Healthy Eating
As a nanny one of your most important duties is to make sure the children in your care eat properly. This may sound simple enough, and parents may take it for granted that you will make sure their child eats well, but what happens if you find yourself face to face with the fussiest eater you’ve ever met – in the form of the small child in your care?!
It can be a real worry if a little one will only ever eat when or what they want to. It could be that parents do not experience this with their child, and the child may be trying to exercise an element of control over their environment when in your care. Having personally nannied for a 5 year old who only ever wanted jam sandwiches, I know from experience how frustrating it can be – but fear not, this did change over time, as he started to put more trust into the slightly more unfamiliar things in all areas of his life.
As always we are here to share our top tips if you find yourself in this kind of situation:
- Don’t make it a big deal! Inwardly, you might be screaming, but try not to let the child see that this bothers you so much. Depending on the reason for the fussiness, the child may feel like they have ‘won’ if they see it bothering you, or in other cases they may start thinking there is something wrong with them – neither situation is good, so keep cool and very slowly over time start encouraging them to eat more / other things. The calmer you are about it, the more likely they are to be calm and compliant too.
- Get them involved. It’s a known fact that a child is twice as likely to eat a meal that they have helped to prepare. As well as being educational and fun, getting a child to safely help out with food preparation will help improve their relationship with food. Start with taking them grocery shopping, so they can see the whole process from the start, and start to see it as fun.
- Appropriate portions. We all know what it’s like when presented with a large and over facing meal. The immediate reaction is to feel a negative connotation with the meal and feel as though you can’t eat it before you even start. Well, this is the same for our smaller friends! You may think you’re doing them a favour by trying to get them to ‘eat it all otherwise no pudding’, but this is often the wrong way to go about things. Limit portion size, so that the child is not over faced, and they will feel proud of themselves for finishing a (much easier to manage) meal.
- Timing. Make sure you only go about introducing new foods at appropriate times. A good example of this is if a child is hungry and / or rested or in a good mood. They are far more likely to try something new in this case. Also, make sure you only ever introduce one new thing at a time, again so as not to over face the child.
- Mix it up. If you really want to introduce a certain food group that you know won’t be accepted too well by a fussy child, try introducing it at the same time as serving a favourite food. This will make the child more likely to try the other food on his plate as well as his favourite. If he ignores the new food, don’t fuss, just quietly try again next time.
- Lead by example. It may help to actually sit and eat the same meal that you are trying to encourage, with the child. As we know, children like to imitate, and if you make sure that you, the child, and any siblings get into the routine of eating the same things, together at the table, then it often helps to encourage the fussy child to eat the same.
If you are finding that the issue seems to last for a really long period of time, it may be that there is a deeper rooted problem, and consulting a doctor or dietician is advised.