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When Should a Child Have a say About the Food They Eat?

Are meals a battlefield in your house? Do you struggle to get your children to eat anything that isn't beige? Maybe this is a reminder to us that all children will benefit from learning more about food and starting a dialogue with fussy eaters enables them to become part of the solution. Without further ado, let's talk tactics!

Ask the parent of a fussy eater at what age their child should have a say in what they eat and the answer might be "NEVER!" On a bad day with a fussy eater, that would definitely be my answer. However when you're feeling a bit more rational, my answer would be "your child should always have a say in what they eat!"

As parents, it's our job to provide children with nutritious food they need to grow and develop into thriving, happy people. It's also our job to teach them what their bodies need to function properly, such as water, leafy greens, whole grains and lots of physical activity. If we can do this, then we should have a child capable of making good food choices.

The Obstacles Facing Parents

If you are the parent of a fussy eater, then unfortunately there are a number of obstacles to overcome, such as:

  • The dislike of colourful fruits and vegetables.
  • The craving for sugary and /salty foods.
  • The sensitivity of food textures.
  • The belief that tomato sauce counts as a vegetable!

Making the battle even more challenging for parents are issues like:

  • Cartoon characters on the packaging of less than nutritious food items.
  • Checkout isles stuffed with lollies and chocolates.
  • School canteen menus that include sugary drinks and numerous 'occasional snacks'.
  • Fundraising campaigns that are entirely based on the purchase of candy.

So How Can You Let Your Child Have a Say?

Well you can talk to them about food. Having a good dialogue about food is the key, such as:

  • Converse with your child about why they need to eat foods with different colours and textures.
  • Help them understand how their bodies work and why it's important to choose these foods.
  • Have boundaries about what foods are considered 'occasional' foods' at home and school.
  • Help them understand why you will say NO to these items in shops.

By talking to your child about food in a positive non-emotional way, then you are more prepared to make choices that are better for them.

The saying "knowledge is power" is very true when it comes to children and food. By having conversations to children about food, they'll be less inclined to ask for the cartoon branded food with abundant food additives, and be more accepting of the need to eat healthy food and not just the one's they like.

It doesn't matter at what age you begin to have these conversations. If you want your child to have a say in what they eat and to understand why it's important to include a variety of different foods in their diet, then start talking to them about all the food they eat and the effects it will have on their bodies. When you are comfortable about letting your child have a say in what they eat, you are also giving them a sense of control, which does wonders for their self-esteem.

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