Fussy Eating Tips
10 min read
By Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed
Fussy eating can be something that many parents struggle with, and this can kick in at any age, although it’s more likely in children who are around 18m to 3 years of age.
There is no definition of “fussy eating”, but it’s likely that you’ll know about it if you have a little picky eater in the family.
If you’re making different/multiple meals for your little one, if they have a dislike of new foods and low enjoyment of eating, you might have a little fussy eater on your hands…but don’t despair.
It can be really disheartening to offer your little one meals, only to have them turn their nose up and reject whatever is on offer. Many different factors may contribute to infants and children being more or less fussy about food than usual.
Genetics, taste bud sensitivity, role models, learned behaviours, and eating environments at home are just some of the factors that can play a role in your little one’s willingness to eat.
A lot of the time fussy eating is temporary, a phase that doesn’t really last too long, but if it does drag on it can really affect mealtimes and put a lot of strain on parents.
However, the good thing is that whatever the reason for the fussiness around food, there are USUALLY ways you can improve the amount of foods children eat over time.
None of these tips are necessarily “quick fixes”, but lots of them are simple ways you can help your little one to start enjoying mealtimes and foods again.
Below you can see my 10 top tips to creating little foodies, right from the start or from toddlerhood – whichever is right for you.
Top 10 Tips for Fussy Eaters
Start as early as you can
A love for food and enjoyment of mealtimes can kick in right from the start of weaning. So remember it’s never too soon to talk positively about foods, offer a variety of ingredients and role model your own enjoyment of food to your little one. They will learn so much from the eating behaviour of others around them.
Look for underlying reasons
Are they grazing, are they full on milk? Are they unwell? There could be other factors that are hugely affecting their appetite and it’s important not to dismiss these
Get their weight checked if you’re at all worried
You can do this regularly at your local HV clinic. Also, look out for changes in wet and dirty nappies – if they are producing plenty, it’s likely they are getting enough.
Establish a mealtime routine
Whether that’s around drinks and snacks or meals and milks, it’s a good idea to have a routine so your little one knows when to expect food and can build up a little appetite beforehand.
Offer a variety from day one!
This can help to expand their palate and familiarise them with a variety of food flavours which research shows often leads to children enjoying more of a variety as they get older.
Eat well yourself
This is KEY. Your baby will learn what, how and when to eat from watching you, their role model. So whenever possible, try to sit and eat with your baby as much as you can. Check out some of Babease’ recipes for using their pouches in your own foods too
Ignore the facials
Babies often show faces that may seem to reflect a “dislike”, but this isn’t necessarily not liking it. Sometimes foods are new and flavours can be shocking to babies, especially on first tastes. This doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t like it, simply a face of exploration!
Don’t focus your attention on the unwanted behaviour
All too often the behaviour you don’t want to continue, such as refusing foods or throwing food on the floor, gets ALL the attention at mealtime. Children like attention from their parents, positive or negative, and so the more YOU draw attention to fussy behaviour, the more likely it is to continue.
Try to relax, be a little nonchalant about it (unless it’s risky behaviour) and focus your attention on the positive eating habits.
Avoid the pressure
All too often pressure at mealtimes can have the opposite effect to what we want. Imagine sitting at a table and having someone force or coax you into eating something you don’t want. How would that make you feel next time “mealtime” comes along.
Instead, try to sit back, eat your own food and let baby explore and play with food for a while. This all helps baby to become more confident with food, and they are more likely to enjoy it if they eat at their own pace, without external pressures.
Make mealtimes as fun and enjoyable as you can
Smiles, giggles, conversations can all go a long way. Happy mealtimes help create happy eaters.
Nutrition Consultant, Babease
BSc, MSc, RNutr. Specialist in maternal, infant and child nutrition.