How to Deal With a Fussy Eater

by Concise Mum on July 27, 2011

Fussy eating

Fussy eating: it's enough to drive parents mad!

People assume that children become picky eaters because they are being difficult. Perhaps they are going through a phase or playing some kind of power game.

While this may be true in some cases, there is a different take on the subject: maybe they just don’t like what you have cooked or the way you have cooked it! This may seem controversial, but children are people too – and they have taste buds.

I was a fussy eater. As a child, I remember my poor mother took me to the doctor because all I would eat was cheese sandwiches. However, looking back on it there was an obvious reason for my picky eating; she was a terrible cook!

There, I said it. I probably sound like an ungrateful brat now, but nevertheless it’s true. My mum has many amazing qualities but cooking is not one of them.

Cakes that could be used as garden ornaments. Roast parsnips that were so overcooked they looked like smoked kippers. Meat that was so well boiled it didn’t taste anything like, well, meat.

I still remember tears and tantrums and the cries of “You’re not getting down from the table till you have eaten every bit”. As a child, dinner times were purgatory – something to be endured rather than savoured.

Time for Change?

Maybe us parents should take a look at how we are presenting food to our kids – and possibly hone our cookery skills. I’m not saying we have all got to go on cordon bleu cookery courses, but reading a few cookery books, magazines or searching online might help us to expand our horizons.

If our children don’t like what we put in front of them, should we expect our children to change, or should we lighten up and change what we put in front of them?

Maybe it’s time for parents to try out some new foods and cooking methods:

  • Steam or stir fry veg – my daughter loves crunchy carrots but won’t touch them if they are in a stew because she says they are soggy.
  • Eat together as a family – if you are enjoying the food, your kids will pick up on it.
  • As a parent, you have to be prepared to try new things too – you need to set an example.
  • Cook together and plan menus together.
  • If your child doesn’t eat fruit, try chopping fruit into a fruit salad, or skewer fruit chunks onto a kebab stick.

This doesn’t necessarily mean extra work for busy parents. Very often, there are great time saving (and money saving) tips to be found in cook books and online.

The Food Wars

How many of us have said “ You aren’t getting the ice cream till you’ve eaten the cauliflower”?

Take it from me – I have four kids – this doesn’t work. All you end up with is a frustrated parent, a sulky child and possibly a floor full of vomit. Try presenting the food again on another occasion, but maybe cooked in a different way.

You might have to accept that no matter how many times you introduce a food item or how many ways you cook it, your child may not like it. My own son will not eat mushrooms no matter what I do with them. But hey, I can live with that, he eats loads of other healthy things.

Children’s taste buds may change as they grow, so it’s always worth having another bash at presenting a “problem” food. Don’t make too much fuss, just stick it on the plate and gently encourage your child to try the food, and don’t lose your head if they refuse!

Zen and the Art of Feeding the Kids

Above all, remember that children are individuals. They may just not like a particular food. Personally, I cannot stand bananas. I know they are good for me (yes yes yes, I KNOW they are full of potassium) but I cannot even stand the smell of them.You’ll never get me to eat them, no matter how you dress them up. So when my son tells me he really doesn’t like mushrooms, maybe I should just let it go (even though he ate them on a pizza that one time when staying with his aunt & uncle – grrr!)

We all have different tastes and our tastes change over time, so who knows, maybe I’ll learn to love bananas and my son will learn to love mushrooms. In the meantime, I won’t get too stressed about his mushroom phobia.

More info on how to deal with fussy eating:

Do your children eat foods now that they would never touch once before? How did you achieve this or did it happen gradually without intervention? We would love to hear about your fussy eater experiences please share them in the comments box below.

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