Tackling fussy eating – at any age

Tackling fussy eating – at any age

There is nothing more frustrating than cooking a healthy, delicious meal for the family only for your child to refuse to even try it.

According to Better Health Victoria, eight out of 10 Australian parents are concerned about their child’s eating habits while one third of parents worry their child isn’t eating enough.

How you handle fussy eaters will depend on the age of your child. Here is what the experts suggest when it comes to handling fussy eating at any age:

Toddlers and Preschoolers:

Approximately half of all toddlers are classified as “fussy eaters”, meaning they refuse to eat about 50 per cent of the food offered.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep calm and try not to stress. Toddlers are not going to starve themselves, even if it seems they hardly eat a thing.
  • Consider a nutritional toddler formula to help ensure they are getting the nutrients they refuse to eat.
  • Be realistic about how much a toddler actually eats.
  • Make food fun – create animal faces and invest in cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, cheese, etc. into fun shapes.
  • Avoid using bribes to make your child eat – this will end up backfiring in the long run as you can expect your child to want a chocolate every time he finishes a meal.
  • Look into different ways of making meal time fun, such as serving food in ice cube trays or using a plate like Dinner Winner
  • Limit fruit drinks and juices as it could be filling your toddler up.
  • Stick to a regular meal routine.
  • Assess your child’s food intake over the week, rather than daily.

School Aged:

Are you kids coming home from school with a lunch box filled with food? Are they complaining that they are hungry but refusing to eat their meals? It’s estimated that one in twenty kids up to age ten are picky eaters.

Try these tips for your older children:

  • Limit distractions – make meal time a TV-free, iPad-free, iPhone-free zone.
  • Ask them to help with the grocery shopping so they pick foods that they would like to try. Just keep away from the lolly aisle.
  • Keep junk food out of the house altogether (or hidden in a secret stash only you know about) so it’s either eat healthy, or starve.
  • Keep a mental note of some of the things your child seems to enjoy and what textures and tastes turn them off.
  • Don’t make a big deal about his picky eating.
  • Give your child a vitamin to fill any nutritional gaps (just make sure you only are giving them one a day. My kids love them so much I have to hide them).
  • Add tomato sauce. For some reason, if it’s dripping in sauce, it appears more edible.

Tweens and Teens:

You probably expect younger children to be picky with their foods but surely they grow out of it by the time they are teens right? Not necessarily.

Try these tips for your tweens and teens:

  • Meal plan together and get them involved in helping to cook and prepare the meals. Being in control of the food that is going on his plate may help him actually eat it rather than just stare at it and pout.
  • Substitute favourites for healthier alternatives – consider sweet potato fries and cauliflower crust pizza.
  • Listen to what your teen wants.
  • Lead by example.
  • Be aware of other issues – eating disorders are common in teens and it is critical that if fussy eating could be linked to an eating disorder, then the time to seek help is now.

Do you have a fussy eater at home? Check out our recipe page for a whole list of great recipes that your kids will enjoy.