As Christmas approaches, no doubt you’ll be looking forward to decorating the tree, visiting Santa’s grotto and tucking into delicious festive food. But if your child is going through a fussy eating phase, the holiday period may bring some mealtime challenges.
Dr Netali Levi, Clinical Psychologist and an independent adviser to Abbott, explains: “The emphasis on food at Christmas can exacerbate fussy eating behaviour, as mealtimes are naturally more of an occasion. As a result, festive mealtimes with family and friends can feel more difficult than usual if your child refuses their food. This can increase the worry and frustration you may feel about their fussy eating, especially if you are concerned that they aren’t getting the nutrients they need.”
“It’s important to remember that for many children, fussy eating is just a phase, and there are many tips and tricks you can try to help make mealtimes enjoyable at this special time.”
Here, Dr Levi shares her simple steps for a fuss-free festive feast:
1. Cook together
“Get your children involved in cooking festive recipes. The Christmas school holidays are a great opportunity for them to be involved in being around food in a relaxed way. Put some festive tunes on while you cook and have fun together!”
2. Focus on fun
“Parties and celebrations may encourage your child to try some new foods, particularly if they see other children eating them. Give some low key praise for trying even one bite of a new food. Keep the focus on your child having fun at the party, rather than on food.”
3. Stay realistic
“Everyone has hopes and expectations of family festive meals. Be aware of any which may lead to upset if your child just picks at their food. For example, it’s natural to imagine the whole family all enjoying eating Christmas dinner together. Try to set realistic, accepting expectations to avoid feeling disappointed or stressed on the day and instead focus on making these occasions fun for the family.”
4. Accept changes in routine
“Be aware that as routines and boundaries change during the holidays, your child’s behaviour, including eating, may be trickier to manage. Try to stick to your regular boundaries or if this is not possible, accept that holidays are different. Feel confident that you will all get back on track once the holidays are over.”
5. Remember to relax
“Consider using the festive period to give yourself a holiday from the stress and pressure which fussy eating can cause for parents. As long as there are no health concerns for your child, not focusing at all on your child’s eating for a little while may feel a relief for the whole family.”
If you’re concerned about your child getting all the nutrients they need over the Christmas period, PaediaSure Shake can help fill the gap. It comes in three flavours: vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, and is available in-store and online at Asda and Boots and online at Ocado.