Attempting to satisfy a fussy eater can be incredibly stressful and often turns meal times into a battle ground in many households.
If you are all too familiar with the tension that can accompany these specific times of the day, then a recent study, conducted by the Aston Research Centre for Child Health, may offer a solution to your problem.
In addition to causing tension and stress within a family, a child's fussy eating habits can also cause health concerns, with Dr. Claire Farrow of the Aston Research for Child Health, asserting: "Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the main risk factors for global mortality. Eating more fruits and vegetables could prevent numerous cancers, stroke, diabetes and obesity."
Acknowledging the obstacles many parents face when attempting to incorporate certain foods into their child's diet, the researcher goes on to say: "It can be very challenging for families to encourage their children to eat a healthy, balanced diet as children naturally go through stages during their toddler years when they are often fussy and will refuse new foods, particularly vegetables. This is a normal developmental stage for children, but it can often lead to a restricted diet as children become fussier and fussier about what they will not eat."
Dr. Farrow, however, insists that a child can be conditioned to change their eating habits if parents implement a specific approach at meal times.
Using the 'three R's' method, which encourages 'repetition', 'role modelling' and 'rewards', a parent may soon notice a change in their offspring's attitude to certain foods which they initially rejected.
According to the study, by repeatedly exposing a child to the same food, illustrating how enjoyable it can be to eat and rewarding them for trying, the parent wil be instrumental in altering their child's perception of a particular food.
The research, which monitored the eating pattern of 115 children aged between two and four-years-old, showed that the children who were exposed to the 'three R' method were the group most likely to try new foods and exhibit an increased interest in previously disliked food at the culmination of the study.
Commenting on the results, Dr. Farrow explained: "Our research shows that a combination of repeatedly exposing children to vegetables, rewarding them for trying the food and modelling enjoying eating the vegetable yourself, can help to encourage children to taste and eventually like vegetables which they did not previously like eating."
Highlighting the importance the approach can have on a child's future eating patterns, she continued: "Eating behaviours have been shown to track throughout childhood and into adulthood - so it is vitally important that children are exposed to fruits and vegetables early in life to inform healthy eating as they grow into adolescence and adulthood."