10 Tried and Tested Tips for Fussy Eaters

It’s inevitable that sooner or later, you and your child will butt heads over food, and it feels like a war you won’t win.  Research shows that 25% to 50% of toddlers are fussy eaters, with 25% of their parents admitting they are also picky with what they eat. With that in mind, here are 10 tried and tested tips for fussy eaters, to help make mealtimes less stress and more fun!

Why is my toddler such a fussy eater?

For the record, a fussy eater refuses to try new foods at least half the time they’re offered.  As our kids grow, their appetites naturally grow and change just as they do. Being picky with food is also how toddlers assert their independence.

Luckily, most of them grow out of being a fussy eater. It might take up to 10 tries before your toddler accepts and possibly enjoys a new food. But many of us give up after three tries because toddler meltdowns aren’t fun.

It might take up to 10 tries before your toddler accepts and possibly enjoys a new food.

Ten Top Tips for Fussy Eaters 

1. Introduce new foods early

Introduce a diverse range of foods to make meals more interesting. Include different colours, textures, and flavours to capture your toddler’s curiosity.

tips for fussy eaters - get creative with foods
Try making pictures out of their food! Source: Bigstock

2. Get creative with presentation

In addition to the usual train and plane noises to coax our kids to eat, why not try these ideas:

  • Make funny faces with food
  • Create a mashed potato and pumpkin ‘volcano’ with gravy ‘lava’ and decorate with animal-shaped nuggets, broccoli and cauliflower trees, and brussels sprouts and carrots for ‘rocks’.
  • Make a rainbow out of food.
  • Buy a toddler plate that makes food look like a game, with dessert at the end.
  • Embrace the trend of covering the dinner table with Glad wrap and pouring pasta or nachos directly onto it! It makes cleanup a breeze, too.

3. Get picky eaters involved in the cooking process

Use cooking as an opportunity to teach your toddler the basics. Have a taste test and ask them if they think the meal needs more salt, cheese, or anything else. Then, pretend to add it when they say yes.

fussy eater cooking with mum
Baking with kids helps prep a fussy eater. Source: Bigstock

4. Learn how to hide the veg

There are so many recipes that you can use or adapt to hide vegetables in your kids’ favourite foods, sauces, and desserts. Beetroot in brownies, cauliflower in apple cupcakes, finely grated carrot and zucchini hidden in sausage rolls, for example.

5. Consider their eating habits.

Although they might be growing toddlers, their stomachs are still small compared to ours. So, don’t offer too much food all at once. Consider feeding them earlier than you would normally eat if they are likely too tired to sit through a meal with you.

6. Give picky eaters a choice

Show them the food you want them to try and let them choose which one. This helps them assert their independence and gives them some autonomy.

fussy eater choosing between foods
Letting toddler fussy eaters choose what to eat can help. Source: Bigstock

7. Model the behaviour

You, or someone else they love, can try the food in front of them and, without going overboard, tell them it’s yummy. You can even pretend you want to eat it all, especially if they’re going through a no-sharing phase.

8. Be reasonable

Ask them to take two or three bites; they don’t have to finish it if they don’t like it. And take it away if they say they don’t like it.

9. Celebrate the virtues of certain foods

Tell them how food benefits their bodies. Make foods sound fun and exciting, such as:

  • Orange food can help you see in the dark like a superhero
  • Milk makes your bones strong
  • Red food makes your heart strong
  • White food gives you energy
  • Purple and blue food makes your brain healthy
  • Green food helps you get better when you’re sick
  • Yellow food helps heal cuts faster.

10. Sauce is your saviour

Have a finger food night with some foods they’ve been wanting to try and some you want them to try. Serve with sauces, hummus, dips, etc.

There’s no perfect way to get a fussy kid to eat. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they just won’t. So, if this happens, don’t force the issue. Just take the food away and try again another day.

For more great tips for toddler fussy eaters, visit Nutrition Australia.

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Avatar of Tina Evans

Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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