Strategies can be used to counter fussy eating (or food neophobia) in children. The Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital shares positive and negative examples.
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“Fussy eating or food neophobia, which is the rejection of novel or unknown foods, begins to play a role in children’s diet from six months of age,” says Jasly Koo, Dietitian, from the
Nutrition and Dietetics Department at
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a member of the
SingHealth group. To introduce new foods to your child, here are some strategies you can use:
Strategies to introduce news foods to children
Research shows that the best strategy to overcome these predispositions is exposure and repeated experiences. Up to 20 repeated exposures in a stress-free environment may be required for a child to accept a new food.
Try serving food in different ways, either in the way it is cooked or presented, e.g. cut vegetables into different shapes like raw carrot can be cut into sticks or cooked carrots into coins, to make it more fun to eat.
Be a good role model
Children are great imitators. If your child sees you eating a food, he is more likely to be interested and keen to try it. Children will need role-modelling and lots of encouragement from parents to try a new food.
Avoid forcing your child by bribing or threatening
Children may eat in order to get a reward or to escape punishment but that does not mean they like the food. In fact, they may end up disliking the food even more! Forcing children to eat may also start a lifelong habit of overeating.
However, if neophobia persists over time, it is important for parents to observe if the child has difficulties with the skills necessary for eating the new food and seek professional help. These skills include, but are not limited to, oro-motor skills for chewing and the sensory processing skills to accept the sensory experience that the new food provides.
Learn more about fussy eating (or food neophobia) in children.