The Fussy Eater

The battle of meal time looms as we tackle the Fussy Eaters.


The first hurdle to over come when tackling the fussy eater is to accept that meal times will never go to plan. Multiple surveys and research have suggested that roughly 8 out of 10 families across the UK are affected by fussy eating habits at meal times. Often this can be less about the food itself and more to do with the child’s environment and their claiming independence. Although part of their development, it can still be frustrating at meal times to see them turn their noses up at anything apart from a pepperoni pizza. As parents, we all want our children to grow up healthy and strong, and a big part of that is making sure they eat a healthy and balanced diet. If you have a fussy eater on your hands, here are some things to consider.

Should I be concerned about their diet?

First of all, it’s important to remember that many children go through a phase of picky eating at some point. It’s not uncommon for young children to be suspicious of new foods and stick to a narrow range of familiar foods. As long as your child is growing and developing normally, there’s usually no need to be overly concerned. Generally speaking children tend to grow out of this when they progress through their teenage years.

Learning by example.

Children tend to learn by example and that applies to eating habits as well. If you’re a fussy eater yourself, your child is more likely to pick up on that behaviour. So one of the best things you can do is to be a good role model and show your child that trying new foods is a normal and enjoyable part of life. Try having the same or similar meals, especially those with a wide variety of foods and allow them to try and experiment with these new and unknown options.

Meal planning.

One way to make mealtimes less stressful is to involve your child in the planning process. Ask them what foods they like and try to incorporate those into meals, along with new foods to try. Let your child help with cooking or setting the table, as this can increase their interest in the food and make them more likely to try it.

Rewards or bribes?

While it might be tempting to bribe or reward your child with dessert for eating their vegetables, this can actually backfire in the long run. Children may begin to view vegetables as something unpleasant they have to endure in order to get to the good stuff. Instead, try to make mealtimes a positive experience by focusing on the enjoyment of the food itself.

What not to say.

It’s important to be mindful of how you talk about food around your child. Avoid making negative comments about foods you don’t like, as this can make your child more hesitant to try them. Similarly, try not to pressure your child to eat more than they’re comfortable with. Forcing a child to eat can create negative associations with food and lead to
more resistance. Try not to focus on one particular food; phrases like “Eat your carrots please.” can cause a child to have an adverse association with that particular food or ingredient. Instead try and have a more generalised comment, “Please eat at least three of everything on the plate.”

Eat your veggies

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that a healthy diet is necessary for your child’s growth and development. While it’s okay for your child to have some picky preferences, it’s important to encourage them to eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Keep offering new foods and be patient; it can take many tries before a child decides they like something.

Having a fussy eater can be frustrating, but it’s important to stay patient and positive. By setting a good example, involving your child in meal planning, and offering a variety of healthy foods, you can help your child develop a healthy relationship with food. Remember, it’s not about forcing your child to eat, but rather creating a positive environment where they can explore new foods and learn to love a healthy diet.