Preparing meals and snacks for the family each day can be stressful, and when you have kids that are fussy eaters it can add another level of anxiety.
You might even feel as though you shouldn’t bother cooking sometimes, as they’ll probably refuse to eat it or demand a banana/plain pasta/nuggets or whatever food they are fixated on.
But if you persist, stay calm and be patient you might just win over your fussy eater with some of these top tips.
The 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge this March is all about family friendly meals, so be sure to check it out if you have fussy eaters as it will cater to them too.
10 tips for encouraging fussy eaters
1. Let them regulate their appetite
With their smaller tummies, it’s important that children are given the autonomy to say when they are hungry or not.
Give them smaller portions to try, let them leave food on their plate, and if they say they don’t want anything then leave it at that (without offering alternatives).
Try this: make a snack plate (pictured above) to help encourage them to try new things.
2. Be a good example
Eating together as a family as often as possible is a great way to lead by example for your kids. Showing them that it’s important to sit down together and share food will help develop a positive association for them.
Try this: Chicken Veggie Noodle Bowls
3. Chew with your mouth open
Yes, really. As disgusting and frustrating as it may be, for a child who is having difficulty in chewing and manipulating food, allowing them to see you chew and manipulate the food in your mouth can assist in overcoming these difficulties, reducing associated ‘fussiness’ and assisting your child to move through the necessary texture transitions.
4. Watch friends eat healthy foods
While parents are the main role model, kids learn a lot about eating from their friends too.
If you can arrange play dates with kids you know who eat well, it can allow your child to see that eating can be a positive, fun experience.
Try this: Breakfast Banana Split
5. Don’t go too hard too soon
Kids need a wide variety, but it’s important to introduce new (or previously rejected) foods slowly. Pop something new on a plate alongside usually accepted foods. If they try it, great, if not you can try again some other time.
6. Offer different colours, textures and tastes
Give them small amounts of different things, rather than one giant bowl of one meal. This encourages them to try new things and gives them a wider range of nutrition.
Try this: Chocolate Granola
7. Hide veggies but put some in plain site too
We are all for bulking out your Bolognese with extra veggies, but hiding them doesn’t encourage the fussy eater to try them of their own free will. Try offering some other cooked or raw veg on the side of the main meal to allow them to make the choice to try it.
8. Keep milk for after the meal
Many kids will fill their small bellies with milk and then be too full to eat their meal. Keep milk at the end, so that they are actually hungry enough to be tempted by the food you have made.
Try this: Sausage Veggie Pasta Bake
9. Try not to use dessert as the reward
We are all guilty of this at times, but try not to set up a regular pattern of rewarding a child for eating their vegetables with dessert.
This reinforces to a child that vegetables are a less desirable food and emphasises that dessert is desirable. Rewarding, bribing or comforting a child with food also sets up emotional cues with eating – I have achieved/endured something, so I deserve a ‘treat.’
10. Be consistent, persistent and patient
We all lose our cool at times, but it’s important not to give up and give in to fussy eater’s demands for the long haul. All children are different, and strategies that work for one child may not work for another (that’s why we have given you a long list of tips!).
Your children’s health and a lifetime of eating behaviour depends on your persistence. Remember that you are doing a good job and that all we can do is our best.
Try this: Homemade Chicken Nuggets
The Healthy Kids FUSSY EATERS Cookbook
This is why we launched our Healthy Kids Fussy Easter Cookbook and it’s JAM-PACKED full of healthy recipes that even the fussiest eaters will LOVE!
Need more advice and recipes for fussy eaters? Join us on next month’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge which is focused on family-friendly recipes as well as exercises that help you tone and get fit.
Learn more about the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge.