Understanding Fussy Eaters

by Karen Swan

It is a truth universally acknowledged that at some point, your child will go from eating voraciously every morsel you place before them, to turning up their nose at even the most gourmet meal. The poor, humble vegetable seems to suffer this fate much more than any other food.  Seriously, just once I’d like my son to go on a chocolate strike instead of a vegetable war!  Have you got a fussy eater too?

Some studies suggest that what your child eats in the first four years of life plays a vital role in establishing a vast and varied food repertoire in the years to come. All well and good, but when you’re standing in the kitchen trying to whip up yet another nutritious meal that you know is destined for the dining room floor, or you’ve exhausted all possible fun arrangements of cut up fruit (necklaces, funny faces, race cars), it’s enough to send your stress levels soaring!

Before you succumb to baked beans on toast for dinner again, (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), we’ve compiled some suggestions to end the vegetable embargo once and for all!


Understanding that your little one isn’t necessarily being facetious is the first step. Food fussiness tends to occur around the ages of two and three.


Don’t drive yourself mad with all consuming thoughts of your home made, organic food going to waste! Accept that in this developmental phase, the variety of food once enjoyed by your child may decline.


Your child may be demanding they eat nothing but their favourite (for us it was plain pasta!) for every meal, but continue to offer a new taste along side it.


OK, we all faked enthusiasm for bland old baby purees when we introduced solids right? Try it again with your toddler! Even if the new food offered doesn’t get eaten, sometimes a smell, a lick or a touch will be enough to spark their curiosity. Maybe next time it’s offered, they’ll gobble it up with glee? (Wishful thinking can’t hurt can it?)

Family Meals:

Mums, we are not short order cooks! Prepare one meal for the family, but save the mealtime battles by making sure it includes at least one thing you know your child will eat.


Think of it as mealtime meditation. Turn off the TV. Relax, keep your voice calm and practise patience. They will eat……..eventually.

First foods:

Many babies seem to only ‘taste’ food in the first few months of offering. As long as you continue to offer healthy and nutritious foods, your child has the opportunity to eat. Or not. Many a night I have repeated to myself, “He won’t starve himself, he won’t starve himself”.

No time for Games:

Mealtime is a great time for babies and bigger kids to have the attention of both parents at the same time, and mini theatrical performances can result! As hilarious as it may be to watch your little one blow raspberries just as the spoon reaches their lips, try and resist the urge to laugh too uproarishly! Ditto scolding. The more attention an action gets, the more likely it is to be repeated.

Snack Attack:

Keeping nutritious snacks handy, will help meet your busy little bee’s dietary needs. Perhaps keep a special container in the pantry, at your toddler’s level and labelled, just for them. Fill it with healthy snacks that your child can access themselves. Kids love being involved – why not let your toddler help in the preparation of the evening meal and snack as you go?

Change of Scenery:

When mealtime battles escalate, why not change the scene? Who doesn’t love a picnic? Whether in the backyard, or the lounge room floor, spread out the blanket and enjoy a more relaxed feel to dinner time. Your toddler could create a “Welcome Home” dinner table for the parent arriving home – have them make placemats and napkin holders; or go all out and decorate with streamers. Sure makes a nice change from trying to secure a screaming child in a high chair!

If you are genuinely concerned with the amount of food your child is, or isn’t consuming, it may help to keep a food diary for a week. You might find that your child is actually eating quite a range of foods.

As with all trying times in the life of a parent, remember, this too shall pass and soon enough they’ll be ravenous teenagers eating you out of house and home!


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