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The best ways to cope with fussy and Picky eaters

Updated on October 27, 2010

What are Fussy or Picky eaters

In every walk of life there are people who are ‘picky eaters’. With adults it look very much like an eating disorder or just plain unhealthy eating with certain preferences, for example the person may have a burger from a fast-food outlet but without the gherkin or tomato sauce. With children, it has a tendency to show itself as a child preferring to eat certain foods to another i.e. chocolate, or spaghetti over meat and vegetables. There are many reasons for a picky eater within children/toddlers and there are many ways in which it can be tackled at this young age, so that as adults they can enjoy healthy eating.

Children, especially toddlers tend to become picky about what they eat around the age of 2, this can be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it may be that they don’t trust the food they are eating, a fear of new things called ‘neophobia’. Some people think that this is a quirk that humans developed over the years of evolution to protect themselves, ‘you don’t try new things as you don’t know if they are safe or not’. Picky eating can also be a way of your child/toddler showing his/her independence over you as a parent, with the attitude ‘you can’t make me eat this’. Sometimes, your child may just not eat that much due to him/her being unable to sit still in the same place long enough, due to them having a short attention span

There was a study conducted which showed that 49% of mothers considered their child to be a ‘picky eater’. Out of the 49%, all children were found to be receiving a variety of foods so as to meet their nutritional needs.

Picky eater

How can you help a Fussy or Picky eater?

Here are a few different ways in which you can approach the problem of ‘picky eaters’;

1. Provide a variety of good foods that your child likes, but remembering to limit the quantity of choice at mealtimes, for example instead of offering 4 things for lunch only give them the choose of 2.

2. If you normally say ‘It’s dinner time, what would you like?’ your child will invariable pick foods that they are comfortable with. However if you rephrase this to say ‘Dinner is ready’, they will most likely eat the food that they are comfortable with. Obviously you can not dish up a meal with all new foods, so try and add 1 or 2 new foods to a dish of comfort foods, i.e. 1 new food to 1 liked food. They will then in time learn to trust these new foods and may well try them. All new foods should be added in small quantities to start with until your child is accustomed to seeing them on their plate.

3. As your child gets older, let them become involved in their food choices. Ask them what they would like to eat during the week when you go shopping. Before you start to prepare meals for the evening, ask your child what they might like. This works best if you pick out a small selection of healthy foods and then let him pick from them.

4. If your child is nervous about new foods and will not try them, try to include them in your main meal. Your child may be more inclined to eat the new food if they see you eating it as well, it will show them that it is safe to eat, and that it will not harm them.

5. If you feel that after you have tried all of the normal tasks to encourage your child to eat, but feel that he is just trying to test your boundaries, (he will eat a little of something that he likes then refuse it, only to then eat all of something that he really likes, i.e. a jelly) then you can try pressurising your child into eating by putting any food that you cook, which is then refused into the bin. This invariable will cause tears and tantrums and is only for the strong willed parent, and you must stick with it for a day or two with all meals to see if it is going to work. Usually, if it is just your child testing the boundaries, then this option mostly works.

 For many children, being a picky eater will pass once they start playgroup or nursery, as they start to eat amongst other children. Their palate will grow and you will find them trying new things. You may find that they will eat things when they are out, but not at home.

Generally being a picky eater as a toddler does not have any long term nutritional affects, as toddlers and children have an innate sense as to how much food they need to get the nutrients that they need to grow and be healthy. However should you have concerns about the amount your child is eating, you should contact your health visitor to discuss these concerns. You should not let your child know about these concerns, and should try and keep meal times as fun and relaxed as possible. Provide a good balanced diet using food that your child likes as well as the new ones and you really cannot go far wrong.


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    • nasus loops profile image

      nasus loops 7 years ago from Fenland


      Thank you for commenting on my hub. I think you are probably correct in what you say, in that if children see their parents/carers eating different foods then they think it should be acceptable for them to be able too.

      In your case it is unfortunate that you have to follow a special diet, and with your man eating different foods this does show your children that it is acceptable to pick and choose what you eat.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 7 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      i have 3 children 12-20. 2 are picky eaters one eats all. All I can think is that because I have to follow a medical diet they have seen me at times eat different foods and maybe when they were little thought well if mum can have different so can i. I couldnt give us all the same as my husband would not go on my diet ( i dont blame him)