Top Tips For Dealing With Fussy Little Eaters

Fussy eating can be very frustrating and can cause a great deal of concern for parents. Below are some great tips for how to encourage your fussy little eater.

If you are concerned that your child’s fussy eating is stopping them from getting the nutrition their growing body needs, consider talking to your family doctor.

Be a good role model

If you’re a fussy eater then you may have to make peace with the idea that your child may be a fussy eater too. Lead by example and try to expand your diet to show them that you enjoy a wide variety of foods.

Ask your child to help with the preparation of a meal

Your child is more likely to eat a meal they have helped to make.

Set up regular habits for eating

Make sure that your child understands what is expected of them when eating.

Make sure that the food you serve looks interesting

By including a few differently coloured foods on the plate, they may become more interested in their food. If they have food favourites, include them and work from there.

Encourage self-feeding from a young age

Being actively involved in eating – rather than sitting passively receiving food – will encourage them to take an interest in the food being served.

Find a food they will eat from each food group

If your child doesn’t like milk, try offering yoghurt or cheese.

Finish dinnertime

Once your child has eaten as much of a meal as they are going to, take away the plate and finish the meal. This will discourage  drifting away from the table with the expectation that they can drift back later to pick at the food.

Make sure that your expectations are realistic

Your child is not a small adult and you can’t expect them to eat like an adult.

Serve child-size meals

They can always ask for a second helping! Generally serve three small meals a day, with a snack in between.

Here are some extra tips from renowned child development specialist, parent educator, and author of Just Tell Me What To Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents, Betsy Brown Braun:

Stop talking about it: stop worrying about it!

The harder you try to force food on a child, the less likely they will want to eat it. The more you talk about it, the more tightly your child will hold their lips closed. Do not comment on what the child is or isn’t eating. Not one word.

Use different plates

In addition to offering small portions, serve your picky eater on smaller plates and use small utensils. Bread plates are less threatening, Occasionally serve a meal or a snack on a party plate. In so doing the emphasis is taken off the food and put onto the fun plate.

Offer a few choices

Smorgasbord snacks and meals, including bite-size servings of a variety of choices, make the child feel powerful in choosing for themself. Too many choices can be overwhelming, so offer two and no more than three.

When introducing a new food item, don’t put it on your child’s plate

Instead, place it on a separate plate away from them, and don’t make a big deal about it. They may or may not be willing to give it a try, but you won’t have sabotaged the possibility by showing your investment in this trial. If by some miracle the child wishes to try the new food, give a very tiny taste.

Introduce new foods when your child is definitely hungry

Hungry children are more likely to risk trying something new.

Invite ‘guests’ to join you

Occasionally invite a favourite doll, stuffed animal, or puppet to join you for dinner. Allow the child to encourage the guest and model how to eat.

This article was written for Kidspot NZ.

What’s your top tip for fussy eaters?

Read more:


  1. Angelgirl081 27/11/2017 at 4:58 pm

    These are great tips. I myself am a fussy eater so often worry about my two. Miss 4 isn’t what I’d call fussy but does go through phases of not liking certain foods. She is a lot more open to trying things than I ever was though.
    Miss 10 months has just been referred to a specialist as she still cannot eat solids they make her gag or spew and the doctor has said as she gets older we may have an extra fussy child on her hands due to this issues so these are really good things to keep in mind.

  2. kymmage 12/11/2017 at 4:32 pm

    My husband was quite fussy as a kid, whereas I wasn’t. I think a bit of that fussiness has definitely been inherited by my kids. Though, now I think it’s more than they are super tasters – they taste things so differently to me! Things that hardly taste of anything to me, are more bitter – even for my husband. One thing that helps is to just serve things they’ll eat. So making sure they have a plate of vegetables they will eat, and other food that they love. We also have one kid with sensory issues and that can mean that a beloved thing cooked a certain way will be rejected too. So I try to be mindful of that. Sometimes raw is more palatable.

  3. SarahBlair 12/11/2017 at 4:21 pm

    My two youngest are super fussy eaters, sometimes im amazed that they haven’t faded away! Im going to try these tips to see if I can get them to eat more!

  4. felicity beets 11/11/2017 at 10:35 am

    I find the tip offering a couple of choices works really well and i will have to try a variety of colours more often.

  5. Mands1980 10/11/2017 at 9:18 am

    I have struggled with my first he would never eat meat unless sausages basically slowly he is coming round but has taken a long time. But will still basically only eat veges and meat no salads or anything new it makes cooking hard at times

  6. Jen_Wiig 09/11/2017 at 6:10 pm

    What fabulous tips in this article, i was very lucky with my first two where they just ate anything and everything put in front of them. But mr 3 is proving to be abit fussy in that he will happily eat meat, potato and snack foods but thats it… Anything else and it straight out refuses and being strong willed will happily go to bed hungry or go on food strike as i like to call it…. There a few new “aces up my sleeve” tips here that will empower him and satisfy my worry hes eating right yay

  7. MuddledUpMolly 08/11/2017 at 12:40 pm

    This article is great as our almost 1 year old is starting to experiment with a greater range of foods and we would love dearly for her not to be a fussy eater! Encouraging self feeding from a young age is something that I will particularly focus on. I do encourage her to self feed but I must admit that the mess is incredibly off putting for me! Must put that aside for her sake 🙂

  8. Bevik1971 08/11/2017 at 10:28 am

    Hard one!! Our 4 year old is pretty fussy – she won’t eat anything that “has green stuff on it” haha, yet she will eat broccoli and peas etc. My hubby is stay at home Dad and is a chef by trade (I know lucky!) and he makes everything from scratch so he hides heaps of goodness in meals. Very finely chops/minces garlic, herbs etc in bases for meals and she has no idea they are in there. I think that a lot of parents tend to serve a too large serving for kids and then make them stay until they have finished. We have to remember that their tummies are a lot smaller than adults so can’t eat as much at a sitting. One thing we must do though is get a table and chairs so we can all sit at it together for meals, out place is very small and limited for space, but we are looking at a compact table and chairs to suit.

Leave A Comment