Updated: Apr 25
Most mums and dads struggle with fussy eating at some point, and this can make cooking for kids and planning meals very difficult. Whilst it is intensely frustrating (as I know from personal experience), there are a few things you can try.
When we start introducing solids to our babies at around six months old, they usually enjoy a wide range of foods. However, by the age of three years old many children have substantially reduced the number of foods they eat. It is a normal developmental phase for toddlers to refuse to eat or taste new foods and many school-age children will only eat foods that they view as familiar or 'safe'. The challenge for parents is to encourage them to try new foods.
If your child only eats a limited selection of food it is natural to worry whether your they are getting enough food, but try not to focus on what your child eats in a day or if they don't eat everything at mealtimes. Instead, think about what they eat over a week as this gives a more balanced view. If your child is active and gaining weight, and they seem well, then they're probably getting enough to eat.
As long as your child eats some food from the four main food groups (fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; dairy or dairy alternatives; and beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins) you do not need to worry.
Gradually introduce other foods and keep going back to the foods your child did not like before. Children's tastes change. One day they'll hate something, but a month later they may love it. Keep offering a variety of foods – it may take lots of attempts before your child accepts some foods.
Here are my top tips:
Give your child the same food as the rest of the family and eat with them as often as you can so that you can model good eating behaviour.
Give small portions and praise your child for eating and for trying new tastes but if they reject the food, don't force them to eat it.
Try not to leave meals until your child is too hungry or tired to eat and don't give too many snacks between meals – two healthy snacks a day is plenty.
It is best not to use food as a reward and to aim to make mealtimes enjoyable and not just about eating.
If you know any other children of the same age who are good eaters, ask them round for tea. But do not talk too much about how good the other children are.
Ask an adult that your child likes and looks up to to eat with you. Sometimes a child will eat for someone else, such as a grandparent, without any fuss.
Changing how you serve a food may make it more appealing. For example, your child might refuse cooked carrots but enjoy raw grated carrot.
The key is to avoid pressuring them to eat, as difficult as it may seem. Have patience and, in time, your child will voluntarily try new foods.
If you are struggling with fussy eating, please do contact me for personalised advice and healthy meal ideas, I'd love to help.
For a great hidden veg recipe for fussy eaters why not try my free magic veg sauce download?