Help! My Fussy Child Won’t Eat Veggies
Last week nutritionist Karen Fischer had a radio interview with ABC (NSW region) about how to get fussy children to eat vegetables and consume less sugar.
We have a handy Rewards Chart that you can download for free, to help make the job of feeding your kids easier, plus the following tips from Karen’s book Healthy Family, Happy Family.
Kids will demand treats all the time!
If your child is addicted to junk food (which happens so easily with the onslaught of junk food advertising and the high sugar content) tell them treats are a ‘sometimes’ food. But the trick is... to establish when sometimes is. For example, Fried Food Friday, “Iceblock day is Friday after school” and so on.
Ensure they understand that junk foods are a ‘sometimes treat’ and not a daily treat, by using ‘slogans’ that you repeat often (like advertising on the telly). Pretty soon your child will stop pestering you for sweets and you may find they start asking “Is it Friday yet?”
Praise can go a long way
Instead of constantly saying ‘no no no’ to your child's every unhealthy desire and expending all your energy, praise your child when they choose healthy food over junk food.
Answer the question: “What’s in it for me?
Why would they choose the healthy option? To help your child choose the healthy option try associating healthy food with your child's favourite interests. For example, if your child loves playing soccer say, ‘Veggies can help you run fast and kick well so I’ve put a yummy carrot in your lunchbox today.’ Through these affirmations (aka healthy slogans), you will form positive habits and associations. If you child is young it can work instantly, but for many it takes time, patience and calm persistence, but it works. Give it the two week test and see for yourself.
Below is the reward chart from Karen’s book, Healthy Family, Happy Family (permission granted from the author to publish the chart). The Reward Chart is a fun way to get your child eating the healthy foods. It comes with instructions and tips.
In the FOOD column, write the particular food you want your child to eat.Choose foods that are healthy such as vegetables, fruits or wholegrain bread. For example, if your child mildly dislikes carrots and rarely eats them, write this first on the list.
If your child absolutely hates leafy greens then write ‘lettuce’ second or lower on the list. You can call the most problematic foods fun names such as Superfood or Brain food (for example, low GI wholegrains are brainy-grains as they help you to concentrate).
Research shows that a child may need to eat a new food up to ten times before they get used to the taste. When using this chart, tell your child “This chart is a fun way for you to be the judge and rate a food from one to ten or somewhere in between. One means it tastes disgusting and ten is delicious. We’ll see if it tastes better after ten tastes.”
Assure them “You don’t have to like the taste of it, you just have to eat one mouthful, swallow it and then rate it out of ten.”They can also decorate this chart with stickers or using coloured pencils. Insert your child’s name after the red star, for example “BELLA’S REWARD CHART”.
Then get your child to come up with some sporting and hobby goals that they find motivating and fun. For example, Billy wants to improve his swimming skills as the school swimming carnival is coming up so write “Stronger swimmer” in the goal column. Also get him to practise swimming at least once a week to help him improve his skills.
Along with your child’s help, choose a NON-food reward that will inspire your child to finish the chart (such as a toy or special outing). Also reward your child with praise for “trying” the foods each time. Once your child has tried the foods and rated them 10 times, get them to agree to eat each healthy food item at least once a week, then they have earned the reward.
A couple of extra tips:
- You will need Adobe Reader to open pdf. Reward Chart. You can download Adobe Reader here for free: https://get.adobe.com/reader/
- Click on the chart to access the pdf.