Give kids fruit with spag bol – 5 rules to raise a non fussy eater, by Stacey Solomon’s nutritionist

Give kids fruit with spag bol – 5 rules to raise a non fussy eater, by Stacey Solomon’s nutritionist

Feeding toddlers and children can be hard work, but celebrity baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed is the go-to guru on how to get kids eating well.

She's worked with many celebrity new parents, from Joe Wicks and Millie Mackintosh, to Stacey Solomon, Rochelle Humes and Lucy Mecklenburgh. And now Charlotte's penned a new book sharing her hard-earned tips with parents everywhere – and you're even invited to a free masterclass she's hosting this week.

Charlotte, 35, lives in East Sussex with her solicitor husband and their two kids Adaline, two, and Raffy, five. She understands first hand the struggles parents face in what she admits is an ‘exhausting’ stage of parenthood. "I really do know how hard it can be feeding kids," she admits. "I'm here to help, not pass judgement. We have all been tested at times by our toddlers!"

OK! exclusively quizzed the expert mum of two for her top six tips. And some might surprise you…

1. Treat all food equally – eat yoghurt with spag bol!

Avoid saying, ‘If you eat this healthy vegetable you can have a pudding afterwards’. This makes the child see some food as 'gruel' and sweet treats as ‘great’. Aim to try and level it out, so no food is banned and yet no food is seen as superior either. A bowl of peas can be just as exciting as a pot of yoghurt.

Instead of rewarding children with a pudding at the end of the meal, introduce sweeter things alongside the savoury. Serve a few segments of tangerine or yoghurt alongside a spaghetti bolognese for example. And allow your child to eat their food in whatever order they want, don't get hung up on any traditional way of eating.

A chocolate pudding or ice cream is not something to be expected every single day. And if your child comes home with sweets or cake after someone’s birthday, say ‘Great, we can have those with our dinner’. Then bring them out at mealtime.

2. Don’t stress about mess or manners

Parents think that allowing their child to explore food and be messy and eat with their hands will teach them negative table manners. Don’t worry about manners at this stage, they will come later.

Resist implying that food is dirty and needs to be wiped away immediately – exploring and playing with food is all part of the accepting process to familiarise themselves with texture. Once a child in the early years is familiar with a food – they’re more likely to accept it. This is the most important thing.

3. Forget everything your parents told you

When we were children, our parents probably said thing like, ‘You must eat your greens’ and ‘You must clear your plate’.

These comments have been passed down from generation to generation for years. But these days we know so much more about child psychology and feeding children, and we also know these sorts of comments aren't really helpful.

We shouldn’t pressure children to eat – it can have the absolute opposite effect. If you go in with the attitude of ‘How do I get my child to eat vegetables?’ I promise you, you’re already on the wrong track. You shouldn’t ‘get’ them to do anything or force them to eat certain amounts of food that you assume are 'right' because it's sat on their plates.

4. Let go of your control – you’re not in charge of their appetite

It’s hard and I’ve been there myself – you can feel annoyed when you’ve made something your children don’t want to eat. But try and relax and remember that all you can do is to be responsible for what you’ve put in front of them.

You can’t ever be in charge of what they actually put in their mouths. You’re not in charge of your child's appetite. You’re only in charge of what you serve up. It can help diffuse mealtime tension when you finally accept as a parent, ‘I'm going to just calm down now because I can't control this.’

5. Eating in front of the TV should be banned

I do totally understand why parents do this. If their favourite cartoon is on the telly you might be tempted to think they'll happily eat what is served while watching it. But the rule we have in our house is to all sit at the table together. Everyone also has to ask if they want to leave the table. And if they do ask to leave, that’s fine. But no one is allowed to take food away from the table.

The focus at the table should be on enjoying the food. Parents can feel TV is a useful distraction, but actually that distraction isn’t helping children develop an appreciation or an enjoyment or even an acceptance of food.

You want to raise children who enjoy food and are happy to eat food.

6. Show don’t teach

Kids learn so much from observing us, rather than doing what we tell them to do!

Parents can show little ones that they too are sitting to eat, using a knife and fork, and enjoying their broccoli or peas.

If you have no interest in food yourself, and you're not sitting and eating with your children, they won’t learn that crucial message that, ‘Oh, this is important’. You’re the best teacher.

Bear in mind, most kids will go through periods where they do refuse food, but if you play it down rather than draw attention to it, this can become a fussy phase – rather than a life habit. We often have to be exposed to new foods up to 15 times before we accept it. So without making a big fuss, or forcing anything, simply keep going and try introducing the new food another time.

Check out Charlotte Stirling-Reed's new book How to Feed Your Toddler: Everything you need to know to raise happy, independent little eaters. To find out more about Charlotte and her book, which is available to pre-order now, [email protected]_nutrition. To find out more about Stokke, please visit@stokkebaby

Charlotte will be hosting an exclusive online webinar on 28th September at 8pm. Register your interesthere.

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