10 tips for fussy eaters

My kids won't eat vegetables!' ...'How can I get my toddler to eat new foods?’ 

Sound familiar? Do you have kids that are fussy, or unwilling to try new foods?

“Fussy eating” is usually related to a power play between a toddler and parents. It may be your toddler’s way of showing their independence and pushing the limits of your authority by trying to assert control over what they do and don’t eat.  

Below are some tips to help keep you sane and your kids healthy.

1. Surround them with healthy food messages

    •    Books: read books that talk about healthy food messages. Some classics are: Jasper Mcflea will Not Eat his Tea by Lee Fox; Vegetable Glue by Susan Chandler; Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss and; The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

    •    Songs: some classics are Hot Potato by The Wiggles, Party in my Tummy by Yo Gabba Gabba.

    •    Fruit bowl: always have a readily supplied fruit bowl in easy view and within reach on the kitchen table or bench. Put the cookie jar or other treats out of sight!

    •    Have only healthy choices available in the fridge and pantry. Strategically place healthiest choices within eye view of children.

2. Be a good role model

Children learn from those around them. If you eat healthy foods regularly with and in front of your kids then they will be more likely to eat the same foods or at least be interested in trying them. 

3. Include them

Get kids involved in the kitchen, garden and at the shops if you can. Allow children in the kitchen to watch and help with cooking such as mixing salads or pouring ingredients. Set up a small vegetable patch or pot with some easy to grow vegetables such as snow peas, carrots and cucumbers. Children who are more actively involved in food choices are more likely to be interested in the food they eat. 

4. Get creative with vegetables

Mash or grate vegetables into mince dishes, pancakes, soups, pizza and dips.

If your child likes mashed potato, also mash in pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or peas to make different colours. 

Offer plenty of vegetables and fruit during the day as sacks and then don't worry too much if they don't eat vegetables at the evening meal.

5. Eat together, if you can

Eat as a family whenever you can. It may be tempting to eat dinner in front of the TV on but toddlers learn how to eat by copying their parents and other children. Try to offer him the same food you have. If you like it, your toddler may be happier to give it a try. 

6. Limit the options at mealtimes

Offer him a meal that includes at least one thing that you know he likes. If your toddler is more likely to eat something he’s chosen himself, let him pick from a small selection of healthy foods.

7. Introduce new foods gently

Offer your toddler just one new food at a time, and try not to make a big fuss about it. Give them a little bite before putting a whole serve on the plate. This way they won’t feel overwhelmed, and it won’t seem like a waste of food to you.

Just remember that you may need to offer a new food between 10 times and 15 times before your toddler's willing to try it. 

8. Keep an eye on what they drink during the day

Some toddlers have little appetite at mealtimes because they’ve taken in too many calories from sweetened drinks and milk during the day. 

You only need to offer between 350ml and 500ml of milk a day.

If your toddler doesn’t like milk, make sure they get the calcium they need with three portions of dairy foods a day, including yoghurt, cheese and custards. Between meals, give your toddler water to drink.

9. Think variety

Offer a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups to ensure children receive a greater range of nutrients. Also offer variety within each food group. Mix it up with different coloured fruits and vegetables as they each contain different vitamins and antioxidants.

10. Be patient

Fussy eaters are often slow eaters. Trying to hurry children to eat can cause them to become stressed, and put them off their food. Be patient, and let kids eat in their own time.