Five ways to help tackle fussy eating

When you have kids, meal times can be stressful. Between getting food on the table, getting everybody to sit up to eat and juggling bath times, dinner can seem like a nightmare. Add fussy eating into the mix and it can become a long nightly ordeal!

Here are five tips that can help reduce fussy eating in your household:

1. Lead by example
This may seem simple, but so often when meal times become stressful, parents often don’t eat at the same time. Make sure you sit with your child and eat. If they see you eating everything on your plate, they are likely to copy you and try everything on their plate. If you can’t manage to eat your whole meal with your kids, try to at least have a very small plate with all the items your kids are eating.

2. Get kids involved in the kitchen
Get your kids to help with the cooking (obviously avoiding sharp knives and hot stoves). Give them things to chop up with a butter knife, get them to stir a mixture or serve up a component of dinner. Kids are more likely to eat things they have helped prepare as they are more familiar and exciting.

3. Meal plan/shop together
Giving kids some choice over what they’re eating can help foster their sense of independence. Try having a weekly planner listing dinners so your child knows what to expect or allow your kids to pick dinner (from a suitable selection) one night per week.

If you take your kids shopping, give them some choices about the food you are buying. For example, “we’re going to have pasta tomorrow, which shape would you like?” or “we need some apples, can you pick which colour you would like?”. Allowing your child to pick a new fruit or vegetable is also a good way to encourage your child to try new foods, while allowing them to feel in control.

4. Plant some veggies with your kids
Or if you have a small/no garden buy a small pot (strawberries are great). Getting kids involved in the growing/harvesting process can make them more likely to eat new foods. Cherry tomatoes are often left on the plate, but if your child can pick a bright tomato straight from the plant they have been watering for weeks, it may get popped into their mouth and be gone before you know it!

5. Don’t try to coerce, bribe or threaten your kids into eating
Sometimes trying to get your kids to eat can be a battle, and at times you may feel like bribing them or even scaring them into eating a particular food. While there is a chance this may work in the short term, it sets up meal times as a battle and also can damage your kids’ relationship with food. Try telling your kids why they should eat the food. For example, “this yummy meat gives your body protein which helps you grow big and strong” or “this sweet potato provides you with so much energy so you can play all day”.

Remember, no one likes everything. It is expected and normal that your child will not like 100% of the things you serve up. Try to maximise variety, make meal times as relaxed as possible and let the kids do the eating.

First published in Medibank be. magazine.






Written by Caitlin Rabel, Accredited Practising Dietitian. Caitlin has a passion for helping people improve their relationship with food and their body.