How to Help With Fussy Eaters

September 15, 2020

It’s normal and common for children to be fussy eaters. Fussy eaters dislike the taste, shape, color, or texture of new foods. It’s also completely normal for children to like something one day and refuse to eat it the next. This happens because fussy eating is part of the development of children. It’s a way of exploring their environment and testing their independence. Knowing this doesn’t make it any less frustrating trying to feed a fussy eater though. 

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Give fussy eaters independence with food

It can be a good idea to support your child’s need for independence with their food. Provide healthy options but let them decide which of those options and how much they’ll eat. Limit the options to two or three things, so your child doesn’t get confused or overwhelmed. 

Another useful trick is getting the kids involved in meal preparation. Ask your child to help with tasks like:

  • Meal planning

  • Picking a recipe

  • Getting food out of the fridge

  • Washing fruits and veggies

  • Tossing a salad

  • Planting and picking herbs at home

The child will feel proud about helping and be more likely to eat something that they have helped to make. 

Introducing new foods to fussy eaters

If you have a fussy eater who is wary of trying new foods, try some of these tips:

  • Keep offering new foods at different times. Your child will eventually try them and like, but they need to see that dish of Spanish chicken and rice a few times before they’ll try.

  • Put a small amount of new food on the plate with a food your child is familiar with and already likes. 

  • Make food attractive. Offer a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. 

  • Serve the children the same meal as the rest of the family, but in a portion size that your child can manage. If they won’t eat it, gently encourage them to try. If they still won’t, stay calm, and tell them you’ll try again when they’re hungry. 

  • Offer different foods from healthy food groups. For example, if your child won’t eat cheese, try offering them yogurt. 

  • Look for opportunities for your child to share snacks or meals with other kids. They might be more willing something new if they can see another child tucking in happily. 

Punishments and bribes for fussy eaters

Don’t punish your child for refusing to try new foods, as this can turn new foods into something negative. If your child won’t eat, take the plate away and offer it again another time. 

It can be tempting to keep offering treats so your child has actually eaten something, for example, bribing them with dessert if they’ll eat their vegetables. This can make the child more interested in treat foods than healthier choices and sends the messages that healthy food is a chore. Try not to do this. When they’re hungry, they will eat. 

Remember that children’s appetites change with their growth cycles, so they can be more or less hungry on different days. 

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