Top Ten Tips For Dealing With Fussy Eaters
If I had £1 for every time someone in my house moaned about what was on their plate – I would be dictating this post to my PA, aboard my private plane getting ready to land on my own private island.
I have a six year old, Caleb, who is particularly fussy. He won’t eat anything with a sauce, he likes cheese but not when it’s melted, his favourite meal is plain pasta and apparently he only likes sausages when they’re not cut up and he can eat them with his fingers (that was a new one he came out with today)?!
He has been this way for pretty much his entire six and a half year life and, whilst I didn’t know for definite how to deal with it, I knew that I didn’t want to have anxiety ridden meal times that are dreaded by everyone. So, the following tips are not promising to solve the issue over night or even a week or months time, but if you keep at it then your fussy eater will start to open up to different foods and the journey in the meantime will hopefully be a lot less stressful.
- Don’t cook separate meals - there will be occasions in my house where the children eat early and have a quick freezer dinner but otherwise, they have exactly the same as us, or go without.
- Don’t worry if they go to bed hungry - if they do decide they would prefer to go without then so be it, don’t worry that they’re ‘going to bed hungry’ – if they were truly that hungry they would have eaten their tea.
- Be considerate to their tastes and preferences – within reason! As mentioned previously, Caleb hates sauces so I wouldn’t cover his Sunday roast in gravy but I would pop some in a little dish on the side (specifically the little cloud dish that comes with the Landscape Dinner Set) so that it’s there when he’s ready to give it a go. Similarly with spag bol, chilli or curry, I would put the meat sauce on the edge of the pile of pasta or rice so that there is still plenty of plain bits for him to eat.
- Don’t call them fussy, picky or tell them they won’t like something – this is my biggest tip. If they hear something often enough they will start to believe it and act accordingly.
- Keep them at the table - even if they decide they are finished after a few mouthfuls or don’t want any at all, make sure they stay at the table until everyone else has finished. On occasion, having Caleb sit with us has meant that he’s picked at his food a little more than he would have done if he were allowed to get down and play. It also means we still get that ‘family time’ and can have a good chat about our day without distractions.
- Don’t give them too much on their plate – psychologically, being faced with a mound of food that they don’t particularly like (or at least think they don’t!) can be a bit daunting so only give them a realistic amount that they can handle.
- ‘Just try it’ - my six year old will always claim that he’s tried it already and just knows that he doesn’t like it. I’ve now explained to him that his taste buds change all the time so one day he might decide that he does like broccoli/carrots/any food with nutritional value. Just like mummy used to hate custard when she was little but now loves it – maybe a bit too much.
- Avoid snacking after school – those who know me or Caleb may scoff at this one (I am not good at sticking to this rule). I know that the hungrier he is the more likely he is to eat his tea, but, when there’s three against one and I’m trying to cook tea (ironically the same tea that the preceding snack is going to ruin) it is easy to give in to the crisp/biscuit requests so that I can get on with it. But, writing this down now has made me realise how obvious this step is (genuinely only just picked up on the irony) so will put my foot down on this one from now on!
- Don’t make them finish everything on their plate - gone are the days of licking your plate clean, try and get them to listen to their body and stop when they are full. Just make sure you follow Tip 6 and hopefully there won’t be much wastage!
- Finally, relax and don’t worry too much about it - the worst thing to do is associate meal times with tension and anxiety. Make sure tea time is relaxed and enjoyable and see it as an opportunity to chat and find out about their day and how they’re feeling as opposed to forcing them to finish their peas.
I am not a professional, just a mum of three boys, but if you did want some further help or ideas from someone with a few more letters after their name, then take a look at our range of Fussy Eater help and advice books and whilst you’re there the Dinner Sets and Hungry Mats are worth a look too.