Picky eater Do's and Don'ts

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 09 January 2013.
Tagged: children, family fare, fussy eaters, healthy cooking, healthy eating, kids, vegetables

Picky eater Do's and Don'ts

Fussy eaters driving you mad? Feeling guilty or frustrated when the kids won't eat a balanced meal you've cooked? Many children refuse to eat vegetables with their stronger sometimes-bitter flavour but many get stubborn over plainer everyday foods such as milk, meat and fruit. I know. We had a fussy eater who drove us mad! So these are my ideas for getting from yuk to yum that may work for you.


  • Let them fill up on fluid (juice, milk, cordial, even water) just before a meal.
  • Force toddlers to eat when they're not hungry, tired or just plain not interested.
  • Take the easy way out by buying them pizza or take-away instead of home cooked meals. Take aways are notoriously high in fat with little nutrition.
  • Think a vitamin supplement can replace food. It can replace some things (vitamin C or iron) but not everything nutritionally that's in food.
  • Bribe them with a reward of sweets or ice cream if they eat what you want. Bribes - "eat your broccoli if you want ice-cream" - tend to backfire over time. Children will swallow an unappetising food (or medicine) in order to get the reward, but that doesn't make them like it. Usually they end up disliking it intensely!
  • Keep offering new foods even if kids reject them at first. They need to see them at least five times before they look "familiar".
  • Hurry them. Fussy eaters are often slow eaters who dawdle over their plate. Let them sit and eat slowly while you get on with other things. Or sit and read them a book whilst they're eating.
  • Ignore problems that interfere with eating such as teething, sore throat, blocked nose or upset tummy. If your child keeps complaining about something, get them checked out by the doctor.


  • Set the example. Eat well yourself (and enjoy it!).
  • Serve small portions. Small meals with snacks in-between goes down better than three big meals a day.
  • Have a routine and keep mealtimes regular and familiar. Putting dinner on the table at 8pm is usually too late for little ones and they simply are too tired to eat.
  • Let them help in the kitchen. Kids eat up if they can serve themselves or help make it.

Find a substitute. There's many alternatives that supply the same nutrients. For instance:
If they hate vegetables, offer them fruit (vitamin C, folate, fibre).
If they won't drink milk, buy yoghurt or cheese (calcium, protein)
If they dislike chewing meat, try mince dishes, chicken, soft-cooked eggs, fish or baked beans (iron, zinc, protein, B vitamins)

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life  is a new update on all the things you've read or heard about. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!