Friday chat: How to get fussy eaters to eat (seriously)

January 15, 2016

how to get fussy eaters to eat

I’ve had a fussy/picky/tricky (pick a word) eater since the day she was born.  The first clue she gave us was the on the day she was born.  She wouldn’t drink her milk or barely had a few drops.  I was actually kept in hospital an extra two days as they were concerned about her lack of appetite. Then came weaning – probably the most difficult phase we’ve been through yet.  It took nearly 1.5 years to wean her – that is truth.  Fast forward seven years and lots of creative, sometimes downright crazy tricks and methods used by me and things have improved.  While I’m no expert on how to get fussy eaters to eat, I think I’ve learned a thing or two.  I would still call her a fussy eater but at least she eats far better than she used to.

To get to this stage I’ve used every trick in the book and then some.  And I still do.  New foods are still a huge challenge – I put a new dish in front of her and she looks at it as if I have just served her poison!  And I don’t actually mean new foods but rather new dishes with similar ingredients prepared in different ways. Say chicken – nuggets are of course the best, chicken curry and roast chicken are tolerated but any other form of chicken is unacceptable.  So here are some tips and tricks I’ve tried over the years to get my fussy eater to eat:

1. Pretend it’s restaurant food
If your picky eater has a favourite food in a particular restaurant, start making a similar-ish type of dish and call it by the name they give it in the restaurant.  Anya’s favourite restaurant food is cha han (a Japanese style fried rice loaded with vegetables and egg).  When I used to try and feed her a similar homemade fried rice she refused every single time.  About  6 months ago I re-started making the same dish and calling it cha han.  It worked!

2.  Eat their food
This is one I’ve been using for a long while and it helps more in getting your fussy eater to finish off their meal rather than trying something new or eating something they believe they dislike.  So if they are picking at their plate (laden with something that they normally would just about eat) then start eating their food. Don’t pretend eat it, really start eating and watch them spring to life and claim what’s theirs.

3.  Strike when they are hungry
No child will willingly starve.  They will eventually get hungry (even if it takes a day or two) and eat. The problem with fussy eaters is their will is greater than yours – you will feed them before they get to the point of hunger.  This is what I was told by clinicians repeatedly and I found it to be absolutely true.  Wait till your child is hungry – don’t give them snacks in between meals if you normally do.  Maybe even delay dinner a bit and then wham!  Put a plate of food in front of them that they’ve always resisted trying.  They are much more likely to try it with an open mind and chances are like it.  Just be sure that they are genuinely hungry and that the food isn’t completely alien.

 4. Buffet style dinner
Layout a buffet style dinner with 5-6 dishes and tell the child that they get to choose (at least) any 3 dishes they want. It doesn’t have to be a complex spread where each dish is a meal in itself – the trick is serving a normal meal as a buffet and giving the child the choice so they are in control.  It’s a good idea to have at least one dish that is familiar.

5. Blind taste test
With fussy eaters it’s not that much about the food and the taste.  It’s so much more in the mind (like with so many obstacles in life) – the brain decides they’re not going to like the food before they’ve even tasted it. So my latest trick to encourage trying new dishes is the blind taste test.  I cook the food while Anyas at school so that she doesn’t even get a glimpse of it.  Then I blindfold her (this becomes a game and that helps too) and she has to eat a full mouthful before she decides if she likes it or not.  I have only done this three times so far (it’s my newest trick) but it’s worked each time.

These are some of my best tips on how to get fussy eaters to eat.  They have helped make my fussy eater less fussy and more willing to try new dishes.  Do you have any tips for fussy eaters?  I’d love to hear in the comments because we still have some way to go.

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  • Mirka Moore @Fitness4Mamas

    Some interesting new things for me to try with Olivia. She isn’t a fussy eater in general, but does not want to eat vegetables, always have to mash and hide in the actual meal…. I think she would love the choice of a few dishes… but not sure if I have time for that due to all the afterschool clubs we have every day after school…. 😉

    • ebabee likes

      Yes, a buffet really works well. You don’t have to make much more than a normal meal but instead of plating it up, lay it out buffet style. Maybe worth a try over the weekend? Kids and veggies – what is it with them?! It’s almost like they’re all born knowing how to dodge veggies! 🙂

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