Tips for when your child is a fussy eater

Some children eat everything put in front of them while others need more coaxing. If your child is only eating certain foods, there are some things you can try to encourage new habits.

A child eating corn

Offer new foods more than once

If your child refuses a new food, try offering it to them another day. Seeing it again and again should help them get comfortable enough to handle or taste it.

Try showing your child that it’s OK by eating it yourself. Or take it away and introduce it another day.

If you’re trying to wean your child off milk, read our tips for mealtimes.

Create a positive environment

Think about where and how you eat with your family. It can help to:

  • Sit together and role model the type of behaviour you want to see. This gives you time together.
  • Avoid distractions, like TV, during mealtimes. It can interrupt their hunger and feeling full cues.
  • Be realistic with the amount of time you expect your child to sit still. Try to keep their age in mind.
  • Ensure your child is comfortable and included during mealtimes.

Praise, don’t bribe

Avoid pressuring or bribing your child into eating a certain food, as this can make them want to avoid it in future. Instead, try to offer new foods in a relaxed way. Give lots of praise when your child is brave enough to try them.

It’s important that your child knows what they’re eating. Show them the whole food first before chopping or cooking it. This helps them understand what they’re eating when it ends up on their plate.

Limit portion sizes and choice

Children often don’t need huge portions to feel full. Allow your child to eat as much as they like, but try not to force more. It may be easier to offer less and then add more if your child wants it.

Too many options can also feel overwhelming. Give your child a choice of two things. This can help your child feel that they’re included and have some control. If you offer two healthy choices, you’ll be accepting of either choice.

Make mealtimes fun

Think about how to make eating fun. Arrange portions into smiley faces or an animal, or cut into unusual shapes. You can get your child involved in this, too.

Offer them plates that looks inviting and colourful. Children need a variety of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables/fruits and healthy fats. Limit sugar and salt.

The NHS Change 4 Life website has some healthy recipe ideas.

Work food into others areas of your life

Be open in how you communicate about food. Try to include it in other areas during the day. This could be:

  • Reading books about food or eating.
  • Role playing eating food with toys or games.
  • Including children in food shopping.
  • Giving your child a shopping list to tick off as you shop for different fruit and vegetables.

Get advice from a professional

If you’re struggling to get your child to eat a more varied diet, look for some extra support.

  • Speak to your health visitor or GP.
  • Visit your local children’s centre
  • Get help from an online support group, sessions on specific topics, or the ‘buddy’ system at HENRY.

Want more support? For advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches.

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