Top Tips for Dealing With Fussy Eaters

Little girl eating a plate of vegetables
Credit: iStock

We quizzed the experts on  ways to turn your child from fussy to foodie. Plus how to banish fussy eating habits in babies before they’ve even begun.

From both a practical and nutritional standpoint, no parent wants to have deal with fussy eaters – you’ve got enough on your plate already (sorry!).

When it comes to fussy eating, it’s really normal for infants and toddler to go through phases where they refuse certain foods and whole meals. It’s actually a very normal part of the weaning journey. However, there are some things that you can do as a parent to try and stop fussy behaviours as a baby turning into full fussy eating habits. Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a leading expert in Infant and toddler nutrition has a few simple tips for tackling fussy eaters early on in their weaning journey

Charlotte’s Tips to Prevent Fussy Eating (Before it Begins…)


1. Keep calm when fussiness inevitably happens.

It’s SO common for there to be fussy meals, days and even weeks. So much affects your little one’s appetite including illness, sleep, teething, environments and temperatures etc. When it happens it’s often easy to think we need to change something, alter the routine or offer accepted foods only. However, the best thing to do is to try to stay calm, accept that it’s just an off day or week and look for underlying factors that might be causing it.

2. Be a rolemodel

Try to rolemodel at mealtimes and eat in front of baby, whilst honouring their will to not eat. Pressure can have the opposite effect to encouraging them to eat in the long term.

If you want your little one to eat well, one of the best things you can do is to eat a variety of healthy foods and to try and eat in front of them as much as possible. They pick up so much from watching you, including how to eat and what foods to enjoy. So, as much as possible, join them at the table and show them how much you love foods yourself.

Make the most of family time around the table and try to sit together to eat whenever possible. Even if it’s just you and your baby, having you being a part of their mealtime can make such a difference to their experience and even how much they enjoy it. They’ll also learn lots of eating and feeding cues from watching you eat!

I love the idea of bringing baby into the mealtime and right up to the table as early as possible. That’s why the Tripp Trapp is such a wonderful invention! Get them involved in food by surrounding them with the family tucking into delicious meals together. Babies learn the skills of eating, social skills and even WHAT foods they enjoy by first copying others.

3. Avoid using obvious tactics

This is important as we don’t want children to feel they were tricked into eating some foods – it might make them feel that that food isn’t something they SHOULD be eating. Early days of feeding is often about trust, so using aeroplanes, television or games to get food into baby’s mouth often isn’t helpful and can set up habits that are hard to break. Instead honour their appetite and stick with the recommendation – you decide what and let them decide how much.

tips-fussy-eaters-baby-stokke-event-digital-workshop4. Make mealtimes enjoyable

If they want to be a part of it, because it’s fun, they are much more likely to enjoy mealtimes and therefore the idea of food. Creating a little foodie is all about getting them to enjoy food, eating and mealtimes. It may sound like a long way off but trying to use mealtimes as a fun way to spend time together (talking, laughing, learning about each other) or listen to some calm music, using funky tablecloths and cutlery and eating together can all help.

5. Offer a variety

It’s all too easy to only offer the “accepted” foods, but this can actually encourage more food refusal in the long run. Familiarity encourages acceptance, so the more your little one sees, touches, smells food (and sees you eating it too), the more familiar they will become with it. If you’re always offering a variety e.g. different fruits and veggies, a variety of carbs (bread, pasta, rice, buckwheat, quinoa etc) and a variety of proteins (beans, lentils, nut butters, fish, meat etc), then they are more likely to accept and eat a variety of foods as they get older.

Join children’s nutrition expert Charlotte Stirling Reed at Stokke’s Weaning Workshop

Stokke are going virtual, Tripp Trapp® tour @ home is a weaning workshop, how to get started with solids and vegetable led weaning. Registered Nutritionist and a leading expert in infant and toddler nutrition Charlotte Stirling Reed will be sharing her expert tips and advice.

This event is free and will be on December 8th at 8pm – 9pm. To register follow this link, and you will be sent the zoom invite closer to the event. 

Read More: Why Breastfeeding Mums Should Eat More Eggs

Tackling Fussing Eating in Children

The experts at Garden of Life have shared their top tips on how to overcome fussy eating in slightly older children.

Introduce new foods

It may sound like the most obvious solution or one you’ve tried countless times, but introducing new foods successfully is all about the way you approach it. The earlier you can introduce this tactic, the better. But don’t panic if your child is slightly older – it can still work just as well with them.

While your child may only be interested in a handful of foods, going down the easy route and caving in and only letting them eat those meals will most likely increase their fussiness.

Your child may still persist, but small changes to their daily food routine, such as reduced snacking, will simply make them hungry enough to eat whatever is in front of them. This will therefore make them more likely to eat the new foods you’re trying to introduce.

If they turn their nose up at something new, another tactic is to leave the food on their plate and come back to it in an hour or so, when they’re likely to be hungrier and more willing to give it a try.

Show them food can be fun

The mindset of fussy eaters is that food doesn’t taste nice, is boring, and is an effort to consume. Changing your child’s perspective on food can make all the difference when it comes to mealtimes. Why not make it a fun, enjoyable experience for both you and your child?

Involving your child in the cooking and preparation process can make food much more enjoyable for them. Even if it’s just small things, like helping crack an egg or getting the ingredients out of the fridge can help to stimulate your child’s appetite. When you put the food in front of them and they know it’s partially their own work, it can automatically become more exciting for them.

Also, don’t hesitate to bump up the presentation skills. Investing in some fun food cutters for sandwiches or animal and lettered shaped foods will make the overall dish much more appealing to a younger person. There’s no harm in making a plate as colourful as possible. Adding bright fruit and veg to a neutral meal makes it look more appetising, which could make your child more likely to eat it.

Read More: Your Potty Training Questions Answered 

Serve smaller portions

When faced with new or unfamiliar foods, your child can easily feel overwhelmed by what’s in front of them. A smaller portion of food can seem less daunting and encourage them to try it as it’s ‘only a little bit’.

What’s more, plating up less food means you’ll waste less and save more. If you’re presenting your child with a new meal and they decide they don’t want or like it, then food can become wasted and simply end up in the bin – smaller portions can help you to avoid this.

Try a different approach to veggies

Making a big deal out of vegetables and constantly telling your child that they’re ‘healthy’ and ‘yummy’ could actually make them think that they’re not. If you make less of a fuss over them, your child is more likely to show an interest – it’s a bit of reverse psychology.

Vegetables contain healthy nutrients, so if you’re worried that your child isn’t getting the vitamins they need from their veggies, then you can always try supplements.

Find the right supplements

If your child is especially fussy and you’re concerned they’re not getting the nutrients needed for their growth, then supplements could help to put your mind at rest.

There are a range of different child-friendly vitamins that can help support their growth and development, with vitamin D3 and vitamin C being particularly important for children to consume. This is because vitamin C can help to contribute to normal functioning of the immune system and reduce tiredness, while vitamin D3 helps to promote calcium absorption for healthier bones.

Read More: 5 Top Tips for Parents Working From Home

More Tips on Coping With Fussy Eaters…

Here are some more tricks to keep up your sleeve if your dealing with toddlers with fussy eating habits.

Be honest about food

Instead of hiding behind nonsense that kids see through – like “broccoli makes you a superhero”, give them real and true information that they will feel empowered and not patronized by.

Keep meals varied and plan in advance

It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut, and rotate the same, safe meals, but this can work against you. Try and make sure you introduce new things once a week at least. This will ensure they are constantly open to new flavours and tastes, and used to the idea of unknown foods. If this is tricky to start with you can let them join in choosing recipes from a book or a website you like, and they can be involved.

Persist with foods they’ve turned down

The temptation often is to avoid a hated ingredient and therefore the drama, however, it can so often be nipped in the bud by exactly the opposite approach.

By keeping that very ingredient in the mix but by cooking it differently every time, you may just find that they come round.

Curb the snacking

If fussy eaters are permanently being topped up with endless snacks and are never truly hungry, your task is always going to be so much harder when it comes to sitting at the table.

So, try and make sure you leave at least an hour or two (depending on their ages) between a snack and the next meal.



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