family food
& fussy eaters

Many children go through a fussy stage (also known as neophobia, or fear of new foods) and it’s probably
more common than you think. Often, foods that your child previously liked are suddenly refused and
introducing new foods becomes difficult. It’s true to say that it’s just a stage, but it can become more
entrenched if you give up on new foods altogether and instead only offer the foods you know your child
will accept because you want them to eat something. That’s why persistence is key—that, and
maintaining your sense of humour!

 

cooking for
fussy eaters

It’s very normal for children, especially toddlers, to avoid or dislike certain foods that they usually eat
if they look different or unfamiliar (even chopping carrots into different shapes than usual can generate a
lot of suspicion). New foods may be challenging at this stage, too.

 

There can be several good reasons
behind fussy behaviour.
not hungry

not hungry

The first is that they simply might not be hungry. Perhaps they’ve filled up on milk or on their snack, and they aren’t hungry for more food.

too many distractions

too many distractions

It could also be that there are too many distractions around them; children quickly lose interest in food if there are lots of other things going on, like screens or new people, dogs, busy cafés and so on.

As adults, we’re generally conditioned to eat three meals a day with snacks, or a version of this that
perhaps follows your own family’s traditions. But this doesn’t mean that your child’s natural feelings of
hunger will automatically follow this pattern. Be guided by their appetite, as no child is the same.

Parents often feel compelled to make sure that their child eats something at every meal, but forcing the
issue when they’re not hungry could result in a negative association with meal times or a particular food.
It’s also important to be aware of falling into the trap of using certain food as rewards or only giving your
child the foods you know they will eat. Habits can form quickly, and these are the kinds of habits that will
be hard to break out of, further down the line.

 

tips for cooking for
a fussy toddler

include protein

include protein

Include a source of protein at each meal. This will help stabilise blood sugar levels.

limit cow’s milk

limit cow’s milk

At 1 year, you don’t need to give your little one lots of cow’s milk as a drink to replace the breast or formula milk they have had—even if they love the comfort of drinking milk. Cow’s milk as a drink can be very filling, and that leaves less room for food.

manageable food choices

manageable food choices

Give your toddler manageable food choices, such as a variety of toppings to add to their breakfast cereal or toast. Try chopped banana, blueberries or a sprinkling of seeds.

increase sources of fibre

increase sources of fibre

If your child becomes constipated, this can affect their appetite. Try slowly increasing sources of soluble and insoluble fibre in their diet with foods like fruits and vegetables, oats and whole grains.

cat’s advice

cat’s advice

Offer a little starter bowl of raw vegetable sticks for your toddler to nibble on while you cook. Serving food like this can be a lot less intimidating than a plate filled with food. If they don’t eat them.