I keep trying different times during and between meals but its a firm no – she’s 5 years old
Thanks for your question.
It’s really common for young children to refuse to eat certain foods and fruit and vegetables are often top of the list of disliked, or rejected, foods.
In relation to fruit, many children nowadays will eat fruit pouches or pots of fruit but won’t eat fruit in its raw form. In order to increase your child’s willingness to eat fruit, you need to keep offering fruits to her at meal and snack times. Do this over a period of time (weeks and months) and try to offer the fruits in different ways, for example, some of us love tinned peaches (in natural juice) but are less keen on fresh peaches with their skin on. This process of exposure – or repeated offering – can take time, so keep at it but never force or pressure her to eat a food. However, gentle encouragement to pick up, smell, lick or try a food can all help children to be more willing to eat it.
The Child Feeding Guide has developed a free ‘exposure monitor’ to help caregivers keep track of how many times they’ve offered a food and whether it was eaten or refused. If you might find this helpful, you can access it here. There are also lots of other things you can do outside of a mealtime to help increase your daughter’s fruit intake, such as involving her in meal preparation, shopping or cooking. Children are more likely to eat food they’ve been involved in preparing, so you could get her to help prepare fruits as a snack or pudding.
You could also have a family challenge where everyone has to find out as much as they can about a fruit – maybe citrus fruits or apples – and introduce or offer those foods in meals and as snacks throughout the week. So, keep offering fruits in different forms, include your daughter in meal preparation and food shopping, praise and encourage her when she does try new fruit, and above all, keep mealtimes and snack times relaxed and happy. It might take time for her to learn to enjoy fruit but offering them and encouraging her to try them in a low-pressure way has been shown to be really effective.
Dr Emma Haycraft
Riverside Cares and the Child Feeding Guide share the importance of establishing healthy eating habits early in life. Visit our websites to learn more about ‘Feeding Children Well’ events, evidence-based programmes, finding at home childcare or your childcare setting and tips for feeding children.