Fussy Eaters

picture of a little girl turning her nose up at a bananaPicky or fussy eating is a common problem all parents face at some point often making mealtimes a misery. In most cases it's just a phase – but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with and many parents become stressed when food is refused. Dr. Marian Faughnan, nutritionist with safefood has some advice for stressed parents.

At times, children might not take anything at all but don’t panic - this is actually quite a normal process in a child’s development. If your child seems healthy and is reaching his or her weight and height goals then there’s probably nothing to worry about. Some of the reasons behind healthy toddlers refusing food are looking for attention, trying to show their independence or they may be just trying to feed themselves.

Key tips

  • Praise your child when they do eat well
  • Stay calm (in front of the child at least!) and positive
  • Don’t force feed – the child may develop a negative association with a food
  • Avoid bribery – children learn fast and will soon realize they have the upper hand and expect something in return for eating regularly
  • Don’t offer alternatives at the table
  • Sit down at the table with the child and make mealtime a positive experience e.g. talk about the day that has gone by or the day ahead
  • Making sure your child is not filling up on sugary snacks or drinks between mealtimes, otherwise they won’t be hungry
  • Turning off the television or any other distractions during mealtimes

If your child is refusing point blank to eat something regularly, it could be that they just don’t like a particular food. Like adults, they have their own likes and dislikes. To make sure they are not missing out on important food groups, alternatives that you can give your child include:

If your child refuses meat

  • little boy who looks like he is refusing to eat anything

    Offer boiled, poached or scrambled eggs instead
  • Offer baked beans instead
  • Try casseroles using pulses like lentils and chickpeas instead of meat
  • Try mincing the meat and serving it with a sauce or gravy

If your child refuses vegetables

  • Offer them vegetable sticks to munch on as snacks
  • Many children prefer fruit, so give an extra piece of fruit instead
  • Offer a cup of diluted unsweetened fruit juice
  • Blend up vegetables, and try to disguise them in meals and soups
  • Mash boiled cauliflower into potatoes
  • Call it something interesting. Young children can be persuaded to try almost anything if it has a fun name – princess pie, fisherman’s lunch, etc.

If your child refuses milk

  • Give them yoghurt or fromage frais as a snack
  • Use milk to make sauces (like cheese sauce)
  • Add grated cheese to their potatoes or pasta dishes
  • Give cheese cubes as a snack
  • Try milk-based desserts like custard or rice pudding

Sometimes, your child will reject a food the first few times you offer it, but will come around to it eventually with plenty of encouragement. And because your child may need to try a food 8 to 10 times before they like it, try your best not to give up easily!