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4 tips to handle a fussy eater, from a nutritionist

By Melody Tan 3 min read
Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Is your child refusing to eat certain foods? You'll want to adopt these tools to help you combat fussy eating.

We all want our kids to pick up healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, it can often be a challenge to convince them to eat their fruits and vegetables.

Meal times should be an enjoyable experience and having a fight around the dinner table is the last thing you want.

What is fussy eating?

Don't worry. You're not failing as a mum if you have a fussy eater at home. Fussy or picky eating is actually a very normal thing for children to experience. This could be anything from not liking a particular taste to refusing certain food because of its shape, colour or texture.

What's also normal is for your child to like something one day and then declare they hate it the next. Your child could also suddenly become a picky eater overnight. This, despite an amazing track record of being happy to try new foods previously.

Believe it or not, fussy eating is all part of your child's natural development. It's their way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence.

Helping a fussy eater

Amanda Muhl is Mums At The Table's nutritionist. She's also an accredited practicing dietitian and a mum to three young children. So when it comes to fussy eating, she has plenty of tips.

1. Make mealtimes and food fun

Before you even start cooking, get the kids involved. Let them choose what they want to eat (Tip: If the choices you offer consist only of healthy food, guess what they'll choose?).

Then get them involved in the cooking process. This will vary based on their age, but could be as simple as getting the ingredients out of the fridge and washing them, to actually cutting them.

A child's eating habit is also partly affected by what's happening around them. So try to create a calm, happy and low-stress mealtime. If you're up for it, cut your child's foods into fun shapes or include bright colours before serving.

Turn the TV off, sit around the dinner table and positively encourage your child. Give them the opportunity to try new foods but never force feed your child. Forcing food into the mouths of your child can cause your child to develop a negative association with the particular food.

2. Give them a variety of food

Fussy eaters will very often choose to only eat specific foods. And if you're wondering whether that's a good thing, listen to what Amanda has to say.

3. Watch your portion size

What's easier to conquer? A small problem or a big one? Feed children, especially those with eating issues, with the same philosophy.

Giving your kids a smaller portion of food will make it both physically and mentally easier for them to finish it. And when they do, make sure you heap plenty of praise on them!

4. Offer them the same food more than once

Just because your child refused to eat something once doesn't mean they'll say no to it forever. It can take more than 10–15 times before your child will eat something.

So offer them the same food again—and again. You could try serving it up in different forms: Minced, roasted, steamed . . .

Once again, Amanda has some tips and tricks to get your child to try new food.

It's time to conquer fussy eating

There are plenty of things mums have to worry about. Don't let fussy eating be one of them. When it comes to introducing new food to children, some will accept it better (and faster) than others. 

Read: What to cook when you don't feel like cooking

Remember that children can have a very different taste palette to adults. You only have to think back to the types of foods you disliked as a child to get an idea. 

And sometimes, fussy eaters aren't concerned about what they eat at all. Instead, what they're trying to do is test boundaries of acceptable behaviour (which is a perfectly normal developmental phase). All you can do is to be firm, but also patient. 

However, if you have a serious concern about your child's eating habits, be sure to see a GP or a nutritionist.