Feeding Your Fussy Eater Is Easier with These Expert Tips
Expert nutritionist, educator and mum Charlotte Chapman shares fantastic tips for feeding the fussy little ones in your household
8 min read
Getting your little treasures (ahem!) to eat balanced, regular meals can be a real challenge. I’ve tried it all with my son and want to share my tips with you here. Hopefully, you’ll find these little tweaks and suggestions helpful when it comes to mealtimes with fussy kiddies.
Serve that food first
If you really want your child to eat something that is on their plate, then don’t put all of the meal on all at once. Just serve up the food item you want eaten first. In our household it’s usually the meat, so I hold off on the vegetables or other bits an pieces and start with the meat. Once the meat has been attempted, I will serve Ezra up the rest. Give it a go!
Try, try, try, try again … ten times!
It can take up to 10, yes 10 exposures of a food for a child to really decide if they like it or not. Try to remember this instead of assuming your child doesn’t like banana or avocado. It may just take a few different tastes of it before it is accepted into a baby’s or toddlers food repertoire. Keep trying!
Give ‘buffet style’ meals a go
At your evening meal, why not try buffet style and give the kids small tongs to use to serve themselves? You might find the attractiveness of the ‘task’ encourages them to put more on their plates and try something they normally wouldn’t. This has worked for me many times.
Mix it up, mama!
If some meal times are a struggle, try serving the meal in a different place. Make a big deal about it, and how lucky they are to eat their lunch /dinner somewhere different for a special treat. You could try outside on a picnic blanket, or move their mini table to the lounge. I’ve even served smoothies in the bath (it was one of those days!).
Trying something different every now and then might just help with those fussy eaters in the family!
A little imagination goes a long way when feeding a fussy eater
Recently, I served my son Ezra a chicken drumstick. He is normally relatively relaxed about food but on this occasion (probably due to tiredness – see tip above!) he wouldn’t even touch his chicken. The chicken was the only thing on his plate I really wanted him to eat, so I tried cutting it off the bone and into smaller pieces for him. Nope – still no success!
My last resort was to put it all onto a skewer and call it a chicken lollypop …weird, right, but it worked! The chicken was eaten in about 42 seconds. So trying something completely different just might work if you are having trouble persuading your kiddies to try different foods.
Some other things which have worked for my family are:
Attractive presentation: Mini meatballs on a stick alternated with halved cherry tomatoes and cheese cubes
Using a game: “How many peas can we fit on this fork?”
An interesting, fun outcome: “Try this beetroot, it makes your tongue pink!”
Serve dinner for the kids…at lunchtime
Do you have a fussy eater when it comes to dinner? Or is dinner an absolute disaster by the time 5 or 6pm rolls around?
It may be because your child or children are tired. They are still so small and can have such big days just by being at kindy or out and about with you! I know that after a half day at kindy then a bike ride, my little man is just exhausted.
Try serving a dinner-style meal at lunchtime! You could serve lots of vegetables, some good carbohydrates and a high-quality serving of protein (or even just last nights leftovers).
Giving dinner at lunch-time means the little ones get all of the goodness they normally would at dinnertime anyway, but the difference is they will actually eat it! This can really help on days that are hectic and the children are exhausted. Then if they have a sandwich or yoghurt and fruit at dinner you don’t need to worry about whether the kids are getting enough nutrients. As a bonus, dinner is stress-free!
Wraps can save the day
Always have wraps in the fridge! Store them in a large ziplock bag and they will keep for ages – at least a couple of weeks.
They are perfect for….
1. Cutting into triangles and baking – serving like chips with dip
2. Making into mini pizzas for a kids throw-together dinner – just add tomato paste, chopped meat or ham a bit of baby spinach, tomatoes and cheese
3. Making a quesadilla, or as I call it a ‘pizza sandwich’. Throw fillings between 2 wraps and lightly fry in a pan until browned and the cheese has melted – yum.
4. Making a quick lunchtime toasted wrap for mum – just add some baked beans, cheese and baby spinach. A welcome change from a sandwich.
Beware the 4pm danger snack!
Some children can be so overtired and hungry by 4pm. It can be hard to avoid giving the kids snacks to see them through to dinner time. Unfortunately, the snacks we often reach for when in a hurry may not be the healthiest foods that we really want to feed our children.
These two tips really help in our house:
1. Give them dinner at 4.30 instead! If it’s been one of those days, just give your children their dinner early. Then they can be fed, bathed and have playtime all before 6pm … you will feel more organised for it too.
2. If number one isn’t an option, do your best to make sure the afternoon snack the kids are having are good ones. A glass of milk and vegetables (chopped carrot and celery work well) can be good options. This can also mean the kids need less vegetable at dinner, which may make this meal easier for you all…!
Check whether milk is sabotaging your toddler’s meals
If you have a younger child ie (1-3) and you are having trouble getting them to eat, consider the amount of milk they are having a day.
At one year of age children need 2 servings (cups) of milk a day. Milk can be very filling and prevent proper meals being eaten. Offer milk after meals instead and this may encourage your little one to eat a better breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Offer choices to your fussy eater
Try providing a few choices for a fussy eater. Say something like: “which vegetables would you like with your dinner tonight? Peas, broccoli or beans?”
When your little fussy eater is involved in the decision they are more likely to eat the food that they chose.
Involve the kids for happier mealtimes
Children are curious souls and love to learn. Involve your child or children in meal planning and preparation foods. This helps them feel involved and increases the chances of trying new foods that they have helped with. Spending this time together is great for their development, too, and you can have fun.
Check out my tips on meal-planning [here], where I tell you how easy it is and can make your week a gizzillion times easier!
Promote distraction-free dinners to benefit everyone
Try to eat at the dinner table with minimal distractions like phones, tablets or TV. Yes, I know it’s hard but it’s worth it. It allows children (and us adults) to really focus on meal times and feelings of hunger and fullness.
Ok this isnt related to fussy eaters but is still really useful – how to keep your vegetables fresh for longer!
They don’t stay fresh in the vegetable bin part of the fridge do they? After a few days, the broccoli and celery are sagging and the lettuce is wilting. By the time the next grocery shop rolls around, they have all seen better days and its time to buy some more and start again!
Try putting your vegetables in the largest size sistema or tupperware container instead! I PROMISE your vegetables will stay fresh for much much longer. It’s also handy for preparing meals as you can get out the whole box of vegetables rather than going back and forth to the fridge for other bits and pieces. Try it!