10 Tips to Deal with a Fussy Eater

Fussy eaters can turn mealtimes into a battleground so it’s important to start good eating habits early. There’s nothing worse than having to cook 4 different meals for the family.

Let them feel like they’re in control

Get them feeding themselves as early as possible. If your baby keeps grabbing the spoon during meals give them a spoon and let them feed themselves. This may mean having one spoon for you and one for them and it may mean more mess but it will be well worth it in the long run.

Get them involved in the process

Making them feel like they’re part of the process can really help. Try to get the whole family eating together and feed baby at the same time. They’ll be much more likely to try new things if everyone else is eating them. When they’re older give them a list in the supermarket and let them help you fill the trolley. Involve them in cooking – let them play with food while you’re preparing it or pick out toppings to put on a pizza. Let them grow their own food – you don’t need a big garden, a few herbs on the windowsill will do.

Give them lots of small meals, as opposed to three big ones

Children’s tummies are a lot smaller than ours so eating little and often suits them better. Aim for three meals and two snacks. Keep an eye on portion sizes too and avoid overloading their plates, as they may find large portions intimidating.

Set a time limit on meals

Never force them to eat and don’t drag out mealtimes. If they haven’t eaten all their food in 20 minutes, take it away and try again at the next meal. They may be hungrier then. Don’t make them eat everything on their plates.

Stay calm

This is easier said than done when you just want to get some food into them but always keep your cool. There may be all sorts of reasons they’re not eating (sore teeth, constipation, illness, not hungry, asserting their independence etc.) but getting upset about it can quickly turn it into a battle of wills.

Be sneaky

If they won’t eat vegetables, sneak some grated carrot into pasta sauce. Vary the presentation – they may not eat a slice of cheese, but they might eat grated cheese.

Offer a variety of foods

Try not to get stuck on one meal that you’re sure they’ll eat. Offer them plenty of variety and encourage them to try new things.

Make mealtimes fun

Use fun plates with their favourite characters, makes faces with sandwiches, eat outside or take them on a picnic.

Remember, they won’t starve

They will eat if they’re hungry so try to wait until they’re hungry (but not too hungry) to offer them food. Many children survive perfectly well on a diet of plain pasta or cereal for months on end so don’t stress too much that you’re not getting all the major food groups in, as long as they’re eating something.

Don’t give up

They might turn their nose up at a food one day but eat it happily the next. Encourage them to try but if they refuse park that food for a bit and offer it again in a few weeks’ time. Hang on in there – one day you’ll find yourself sitting at the dinner table with everyone happily eating their food and you can quietly pat yourself on the back for a job well done.