Fussy eaters

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Fear of new foods affects up to one in every five children, typically when they’re between 18 months and two years old. But getting them involved with making their meal, whatever their age, can often help make sure they try what’s on the plate.

Our tips

  • Stick with it. It can take up to fifteen tries of a new food before children accept it, and their tastes will often change. Every now and then, try them again with a food they’ve said no to in the past
  • Don’t use favourite foods as a reward if your child tries something new – you’re only making them prize those foods even more
  • Start small. Give them a tiny taste of a new food first – they can always have more
  • Give them control – let them spit it out if they really don’t like it!
  • Praise them for having a go
  • Take them shopping. When you’ve got time, explore the fruit and veg aisle with them and get them choosing a new fruit or veg they haven’t tried before
  • Serve children what you’re eating – they’re more likely to try things that the whole family’s tucking into

Presenting food for fussy eaters

  • Let kids serve themselves. Put the different parts of the meal in different bowls and let them fill their own plates. Encourage them if you need to 
  • Be creative – use foods of different shapes and colours
  • Give them small servings at first. They can always have seconds but can feel put off by big portions
  • Bring the food to life. A simple noodle soup? ‘Wiggly Worm Soup’ sounds so much more fun….
  • Individual-sized portions in smaller dishes makes you feel like the food was made especially for you – and can make kids more likely to eat it

Creating a good mealtime

  • Mealtimes are about so much more than food. Try to sit down together to eat whenever you can, turn off the TV and use the time to chat – research shows this also helps build children’s confidence
  • As frustrating as it is, don’t get cross or force children to eat. Take their plate away without comment if they haven’t eaten what’s on it
  • Try and stick to set mealtimes, to help make sure they’re not too tired or hungry to eat
  • Use positive peer pressure – invite other children who are good eaters to join you for a meal; it can work wonders!

Hidden goodness

  • Helping children learn what different foods feel, smell, look and taste like is one of the best ways to combat fussy eating. But if there are still some fruits and vegetables that your kids just won’t entertain, you might need to get a bit sneaky as a last resort. Ultimately, it’s about helping them eat a good diet
  • Add cooked and mashed carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato or swede to normal mashed potato
  • Throw carrots, peppers and onions into bolognese sauce
  • Try our secret ingredient for chocolate cake – beetroot keeps it beautifully moist
  • Put fruit in puddings – our Peach and Raspberry Cake and Tutti Fruity Crumble go down a treat
  • Chop ripe banana into bite-sized pieces and freeze them. Frozen banana chunks look and taste great and make a healthy alternative to ice-cream or lollies