Feeding the fussy eater

Variety of baby food
Variety of baby food

Did you know that 1 in 2 children under two years old are classified as fussy or picky eaters? As a toddler, the excitement of exploring new surroundings is far more entertaining than eating, making for rather frustrated parents. If mealtimes in your household are a daily struggle, here are a few practical tips...

Mealtime = Fun Time

Make mealtimes more interesting and appealing with colour, games, star charts, and more with these tips:

  • Children eat with their eyes. Use colourful kid-sized cups, plates, utensils, straws, and placemats.
  • Find plates and cups with your child’s favourite cartoon character. Cut and arrange vegetables into interesting shapes like stars and flowers and use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into a variety of fun shapes.
  • Involve your children in preparing meals. Younger children can stir ingredients together or help bring you ingredients, pots, pans, bowls, and other kitchen utensils. Older children can dice soft vegetables like baby marrows with a butter knife or help set the dinner table.
  • Place a fruit and vegetable star chart somewhere visible and offer your child a reward - such as going to the park, or an extra story at night before bed - when a goal is reached. Be sure to keep the reward non-food related.
  • Encourage your child to eat a fruit and vegetable each day from a different colour of the rainbow.
  • For example, tomatoes and watermelon are red, berries and beetroot are purple, and mangoes and carrots are orange. Print a picture of a rainbow and place on the fridge.

Practice (and Patience) Makes Perfect

Published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, a study showed that the number of times that parents offered a new food before deciding the child disliked it was 5. Yet researchers say that it takes up to 15 repeated exposures to a new food before a child accepts it. Patience is key, though understandably easier said than done.

  • Fussy eaters are less likely to want to eat mixed dishes (think spaghetti bolognese). Offer one new food at a time and place separately on the plate, and only in small amounts to prevent your child feeling overwhelmed. Try adding in some Squish 100% fruit and veg purees into the dishes to help them get the nutrients they need, with a great taste.
  • Make sure there is always one food on the dinner table that you can reasonably expect your child to eat. Serve a new food along with a favourite food to help improve the likelihood of your child wanting to try the new food
  • Your child’s acceptance of a new food is highly influenced by verbal praise. Use positive phrases in an upbeat and friendly tone such as “Great job!”, “So proud of you!” or “Mommy’s champion eater!
  • Focus less on floors covered in peas and spilled cups of juice. Try to create a warm and inviting eating environment. Clean up only at the end to make mealtimes pleasant for the whole family
  • Children thrive on routine and schedule. Establish a signal for mealtime such as a warm bath or hand-washing and allow time for play after meals. The anticipation may encourage your child to finish the plated food sooner.
  • Force feeding is a big no-no. Remember that fussy eating may not just be about food but also about the strive for independence, forming part of a child’s normal social development. 

Be a Good Role Model

It is clear from research that a child’s eating habits are highly influenced by parents and siblings, so it is important for the family to be good role models

You can start influencing your child’s taste buds already during pregnancy and through breastfeeding. We know that a child’s exposure to flavours through the amniotic fluid, placenta, and breast milk may influence food likes.

“I’ll give you a chocolate if you finish all your broccoli.” Such statements may undermine healthy, nutritious food and create the impression that sweet treats should be valued over healthier foods. Be conscious of your words when trying to get your child to eat healthier.

Set an example by allowing your child to see you trying new and interesting foods.

To avoid the scrutinous eyes of your toddler, if you do not want your child to eat a food, do not bring into the home or be seen eating it.

For a convenient way to get your baby or child to enjoy fruit and veg, why not try Squish?

Squish offers a range of 100% fruit and veg purees and pressed 100% fruit and veg juices. The convenient pouches are well-loved amongst mommies and are perfect for baby from the first introduction of solids, right through the weaning process - from babies to toddlers and beyond. Squish provides delicious tasting convenience, whether at home or on the go, and is preservative free, colourant free and flavourant free with no added starch.

Squish 100% fruit and veg puree and juice flavours give parents a broader range of taste options for even the fussiest of eaters, right from the first introduction of solids through to a full meal, or tasty snack.

1. Carruth BR et al. Prevalence of Picky Eaters among Infants and Toddlers and Their Caregivers’Decisions about Offering a New Food. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004; 104:S57-S64.
2. Dovey TM et al. Food neophobia and ‘picky/fussy’ eating in children: A review. Appetite 50 (2008)181–193.
3. Pope L, Wolf RL. The Influence of Labeling the Vegetable Content of Snack Food on Children's Taste Preferences: A Pilot Study. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour. 2012;44(2):178-82.
4. Shim JE et al. Associations of Infant Feeding Practices and Picky Eating Behaviours of PreschoolChildren. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011; 111:1363-1368.
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