Expat children and fussy eating 

September 18, 2018

Moving country with children can cause some concerns. Where to send them to school? Will they settle in? How much will they miss family from home? Even the small worries are bothersome like, will they be happy with their new room? Will they adjust to the weather or eat the food?

Food is more of a challenge for some families than others. If hours spent at the dinner table coaxing, reasoning and bribing your children to eat sounds familiar, you may experience issues helping children adapt to new foods when beginning life as an expat family.

Like many traits, fussy eating in children has been linked to both nature and nurture.

Research published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry showed half of identical twins tested were fussy eaters due to their genes. But don’t worry, parents can still modify this behaviour even if it is genetic.

There are things you can do to prepare your child for food in their new home. Try these suggestions as part of building up excitement for the move:
If you live in or near a large city, chances are there is a variety of ethnic restaurants from around the world. Try and find a restaurant serving the dishes you may expect to see in your host country. Allow lots of time for the meal so no one is rushed and make a big deal out of it, especially for younger children. In advance of getting there see if they offer half portions for children or consider ordering several entrées so your child can pick and choose what they would like to eat.
Forcing children to stay at a table until they eat is rarely successful. Provide new or disliked foods outside of mealtimes and praise their efforts if they touch, smell or taste it.
Help your child feel in control by allowing them to choose between two of their favourite snacks and pack a supply so everything is not totally alien in your new home.
Although generally not recommended, give your child some say in purchases on the first food shop.
Most larger cities will have at least one buffet restaurant and in some cultures, it is a really popular way to eat. Buffets allows fussy expat kids to choose what they want to eat and try small amounts of new food at a time.
This may involve buying three varieties of cereal, it will be well worth it if your child finds a new favourite.
Instead of trying a new food at breakfast on their first day of school, have a ‘taste test’ on a quiet day. Put various foods into different bowls, not at meal time and allow them to taste test them and choose a favourite. As they get braver introduce the idea of a blind taste test, for fun and to discourage food neophobia (a refusal to try new foods).
Although we can’t guarantee these ideas will result in fuss free meal times, they are certainly worth a try. Get in touch on Facebook with any other tips you use to resolve fussy eating in your home.