Do you find yourself sitting down to the same meals week in, week out? Perhaps you have a fussy eater or two and you’re fed up of preparing food that simply gets rejected? Or maybe you’re just struggling for mealtime inspiration?
You’re not alone, I see many families in my clinic and at my workshops who have found themselves in a dinner time (and breakfast and lunchtime…) rut. If your child is a fussy or picky eater, then it can seem easier to stick with what they know – and even adults find comfort in familiar foods. The trouble is that just as our brains would get bored watching the same TV show over and over and over again, our bodies eventually tire of eating the same foods on heavy rotation.
At some point your child will refuse to eat their favourite food. If they eat a wide range of foods – more than 30 – but love avocado, for example, and want to eat it daily, it won’t matter too much when they become bored and refuse it, as they have 29 other foods to choose from. However, if your child eats a limited range of foods (less than 10), losing one favoured food is a big deal, especially if it’s the only food in a particular food group.
Over time, if children eat the same foods daily, their food choices dwindle down so much that their diets become nutritionally lacking and can cause lethargy, poor concentration and nutritional deficiencies, which demand attention. Children with limited diets are often low in iron, zinc and B12 and this can suppress the appetite and cause further fussiness due to lack of interest.
It’s important to identify repetitive eating behaviours early on and use positive strategies to nip it in the bud before it becomes a bigger issue. The eight steps and easy meal plans in my book Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook will help you increase variety in your child’s diet and below are some simple strategies to prevent repetitive eating:
1. Variety is key.
Introduce a wide variety of foods from as early as possible and remember to exercise enormous amounts of patience in the face of rejection. It can take a young baby 10-16 tries to accept a new food.