Busy Mum’s Guide to Fussy Eating Children

Busy Mum’s Guide to Fussy Eating Children

 ‘I don’t like it’ they scream at the top of their little voices.

The only responses you have in your locker are ‘PLEASE eat it!’ or ‘You DO like it, you ate it YESTERDAY!’.

Sadly neither of these pleas are likely to result in a more compliant child that eats their food on command.

The eventual outcomes are likely to be emotional bribery ‘if you eat it you can have x afterwards’ – using food as a reward for good behaviour!? – No thanks.

If you choose to stand firm in your message that they must eat whatever it is they’ve decided is disgusting in that moment then be ready for a battle of the wills.

Children can be amazingly strong willed and stubborn can’t they!?

It is almost impossible to know how to deal with fussy eaters when the things they are fussy about change from day to day or hour by hour!

Here are a few tips I have used with my daughter as well as some great tips from my wonderful clients


Lead by Example

Where did you learn most of your life skills from?

So many things we take for granted such as manners, behaviours, values and beliefs are all modelled on what we experience as children.

Our parents are our role models and the people we look to for help in understanding, navigating and dealing with the world.

I had a client say to me once ‘my kids don’t like vegetables’.

How many times do you think they served the children vegetables?

Yup – once!

You know what children are like though.  They change their minds daily, hourly or even from one minute to the next.

Something they liked yesterday will be disgusting today and vice versa.

Not only that but if YOU don’t eat healthy meals then the children won’t.

Why would they?

They have no way of ‘learning’ this without it being modelled by the people they eat with most often.

You can probably find at least a few vegetables that you can at least tolerate and eat those.

For most adults it’s green veg that causes the problem.

Try covering them in a sauce or a low calorie dressing of some sort to mask the taste.

I would never advocate forcing yourself to eat something you despise but by actively ignoring vegetables your children never have the chance to like them and see them as part of a normal, balanced and healthy diet.


Plate design

Boring plates of food really put most people off the idea of eating healthier foods.

Who has ever looked at a boiled chicken breast with plain rice and broccoli and thought ‘that looks delicious’? – no one!

Children are no different.

That doesn’t mean novelty cartoon character spaghetti, alphabet chips or turkey dinosaurs though!

Nor should meal preparation have to take 5 hours in a Great British Bake Off style ordeal.

Here a few examples:

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If you want to take some of the work out of the design, these face plates are a fun way to make amusing and fun looking food plates.

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Hide the veg

As well as being incredibly stubborn, children are remarkably perceptive to your trickery.

The look they give you when you present them with broccoli as side burns on a novelty face plate screams ‘broccoli is still broccoli, mummy!’.

While this is both amusing and frustrating in equal measures, it can hinder your best efforts to provide them with healthy nutrition.

Here’s where a bit of trickery is for their own good.

Simply hiding veggies in a stew isn’t enough.

They have exceptional foraging skills and will ‘pick & flick’ these foods at you until you give in.

Here’s where the food processor becomes your best ally.

Throw a heap of veggies into the blender with some passata, add some herbs, spices, stock or whatever you like and hey presto!

Of course you can do the same with any sauce such as white sauce or gravy etc.

Here’s a yummy tomato based version for you to try.


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Make it fun

The clichéd ‘here comes the aeroplane’ might seem like a step too far but that stuff works!

Often a refusal to eat is a cry for attention or a sign of a child’s extremely short attention span and inability to sit still for more than 5 seconds!

Just making meal times fun cam be enough to get you all through the meal without cross words, tears and tantrums.

Don’t be worried about creating a rod for your own back.

Children grow out of these things.

There’s no way you’ll still be playing these games when they’re 18!

A popular one in our house is the ‘ready, steady, go’ in which we each get a piece of broccoli ready and see who can eat it the fastest.  Oddly it’s never me or my wife!


Let it go!

No doubt the now infamous track from Frozen is on constant loop in your house and probably even at meal times too.

But there is a point to this.

Sometimes you just cannot and will not win the battle and that’s ok.

Banging on your drum about the importance of eating greens when they aren’t ready to listen is going to do nothing apart from stress you out and turn meal times into a clash of the titans that you all end up dreading.

Children all progress at different rates and they will find their own way in the end, especially if they know they have your full support, love and trust.

If it goes on the floor it can be cleaned up.

If it goes on their face it can be wiped.

If it goes in their hair it can be washed.

I have struggled not to be a ‘helicopter parent’ (hovering over them and trying to correct them or teach them constantly) but that kind of behaviour doesn’t actually improve things.

I try not to do that with my clients so my daughter should be no different.

Meal times should be social, relaxed and enjoyable and something to look forward to.  A time for a family to sit down together AT THE TABLE and have some valuable family time.

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