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How To Get Your Picky Toddler To Eat Healthy

Written by

GoodnessMe

Posted on

9.10.22

By Catchy Founder, Rachel Cohen

The first years of a child’s life is the optimal window for establishing healthy eating behaviours. But for many parents, getting our kids to eat healthy foods can be wrought with stress, anxiety and lots of wasted broccoli on the floor! Even the best eaters can suddenly become fussy as they reach toddlerhood and learn that they can have an opinion about what they will and won’t eat!


While picky eating is normal and common, there are things you can do to make mealtimes less stressful and bring the fun back to healthy food! Dr Rachel Cohen PhD, Clinical Psychologist and founder of Catchy shares her top 10 do’s and don'ts to help your children establish a healthy relationship with food!


Don't

  1. Force Feed. Never force feed or pressure a child to eat. Saying things like “just taste this” or insisting they eat “one more bite” is unhelpful and counterproductive. The more we add pressure to eat healthy foods, saying things like “just taste this” or insisting they eat “one more bite”, the more likely our child will resist it! Children are much more likely to try new foods when we keep mealtimes relaxed and pressure-free.
  2. Bribe with food. Using food as a reward is associated with greater consumption of unhealthy foods and emotional eating.
  3. Distract them to eat. If we constantly feed our kids in front of screens they will eat mindlessly and not tune into their bodies to know when they’re hungry or full.
  4. Label food as “good” and “bad”. When food is labelled as “good” or “bad” it becomes part of an emotional language rather than about nourishment. Labelling food in this way can create food anxiety and disrupt our children’s ability to listen to their natural hunger and satiety cues. It’s important to talk about all food in the same way without attaching moral/value judgements to them.
  5. Make a fuss about mess. Fussing over our kids while they eat can lead to fussy eaters! How much would you enjoy mealtimes if someone was wiping your face when you spilled, correcting how you used your spoon or fretting about the mess you were making while you tried to eat. Doesn’t sound so fun, does it? Instead, letting our kids make mess while they learn to feed themselves is crucial to setting up positive associations with food and eating.


Do

  1. Offer a healthy and diverse range of foods. Children exposed to a variety of flavours and textures in the early years have been found to eat more fruit and vegetables in later years and be more willing to explore new foods!
  2. Model! Babies and toddlers learn more from what they see us do than what they hear us say. If you want them to try healthy foods, let them see you eating them! Family meals have been found to be one of the best ways to model healthy eating practices and makes mealtimes much more enjoyable for bub. Food is meant to be shared after all!
  3. Provide repeated exposure to new foods:. Research shows that new food needs to be offered up to 15 times before a child will accept or even try the food. So, don’t just write off a food because they refused it the first time (or the 10th time)! Keep it in the repertoire.
  4. Make food fun: Many children who are fussy eaters are very sensitive to different textures and can be reluctant to touch and try new foods. Let them get involved in food preparation and cooking, do sensory play activities with different textured foods, and present “boring” food in playful ways on their plate.
  5. Embrace the mess: If you ask any paediatrician, OT or developmental psychologist, they will tell you 'messy eaters are good eaters’. It is very important to encourage our little ones to explore their food with all their senses when learning to eat. Catchy, the high chair food catcher, allows you to do just that and raise happy and healthy eaters without stressing about the mess.

As a clinical psychologist, PhD, specialising in eating disorders, Rachel knows that the best way to support your child in developing a healthy relationship with eating is to create relaxed and pressure-free mealtimes, where exploring, playing, and making mess with food is encouraged! However, as a mum, she couldn’t stand the constant clean up. That’s why she invented Catchy.

Catchy allows Rachel to practice what she preaches as a psychologist, and let her daughter explore her food with all her senses, without stressing about the mess!

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