How to introduce new foods to fussy eaters

Introducing new foods to ‘fussy eaters’ is a very common challenge parents face globally. Toddlers and babies aren’t necessarily fussy eaters, they just might not be big on exploring with their taste buds. Let’s see if we can make the ‘new foods’ journey easier for you and your children.

It’s reassuring to know that exploration of food is a normal part of babies and toddlers’ development. One third of parents worry that their child isn’t eating enough. Unless they are ill, a young child will never voluntarily starve themselves.

If your child seems healthy and energetic, they are eating enough. If you are still concerned, keep an eye on how much food they actually eat, over the day. Children tend to graze constantly. You may be surprised how those little handfuls and snacks add up. The focus here should be on ‘healthy’ snacks.

So many factors come into play when it comes to food preferences even for adults

How does it look?
There is a saying that says, we eat with our eyes. It’s very true, if something doesn’t look appetising we are reluctant to taste it.

How does it smell?
To this day the smell of offal makes me gag. I was forced to eat it to ‘try’ it when I was young and nearly vomited at the table.

How has it been cooked?
The texture of food has a great bearing on if someone will accept it or not. I really enjoyed my vegetables when I cooked them myself as an adult. Mum overcooked everything and mushy Brussel Sprouts, look bad, smell bad and taste awful. People are very particular about how they like their steak cooked. Try cooking the same food in different ways.

What are the reactions to the food by the people around me?
If a big brother is turning up his nose at a certain food it’s highly likely that the younger child is going to jump at the chance of eating it.

Adapt to your child’s eating habits

Perhaps part of the problem may be trying to force your child to eat like an adult.

Appreciate that your child’s stomach is small. Too many drinks of milk or fruit juice may be filling them up. Encourage less juices and more water. It will keep them hydrated and not fill their stomachs as much before meals. Children are ‘grazers’ because of their small stomachs. If they are grazing on healthy snacks and getting a good nutritional intake, that’s a good thing.

Assess your child’s food intake over the week, rather than daily.
Allow your toddler to identify when they have had enough – this teaches them to listen to their body. My mother was old school and I was told I had to eat what was on my plate and not leave the table till I did. NOT a good strategy at all.  

Serve child-size meals

 introduce new foods to fussy eater toddler ice cube tray In Home Care Services Direct
Smaller serves are an obvious thing but how about using an icetray to serve a meal. Different colours to tempt the sight, different textures for touch, different smells and different tastes. Even different sounds when you crunch a carrot or lettuce. 

Timing is important

Children are social creatures and usually don’t like to eat alone. Make meal times family time. If the family dinner is late in the evening, your child may be too tired to eat. They need to eat when they are hungry and that may be 4 – 5pm for dinner. Even if you can’t eat with them at that time make sure they have something healthy on hand. Isolating children and expecting them to eat on their own while you do something else isn’t fun for them. Rushing them to eat isn’t fun either. However you manage it, make meal times fun and easy. Perhaps you could do with a Nanny at meal times, or a Night Nanny?


How about a diary?

It may be a good idea to keep a diary of when you introduced what foods. You can check on their nutritional intake over time and you’ll have a record to take to the doctor if you really get concerned. Let’s face it sometimes they are just never going to like those Brussel sprouts.

I know first hand that it can be hard to get home and have a meal ready for the kids at that time if you work. A great way to deal with this is to have meals prepared in advance.

• Have cooked pasta ready to heat and just add the topping

• Have cooked meat ready and just add a few veggies

• Soups are a fabulous way of getting nutrients into children or adults. Just defrost and you’re ready for dinner

My FREE e-Book ‘Fun Food For Kids’ (available to members) has 200 ideas for you to try with your fussy eater. 

Kids love to have fun

Most parents start with, “Just taste it”. I remember doing this with my own children. Then we get a negative reaction to this statement, we continue with… “just taste it, you don’t have to eat it.” Have you done this? It creates a feeling of pressure rather than fun.

When you accept that it’s normal for children to say no to foods (this behaviour can be them exploring what it’s like to assert their independence.) it’s a good idea to take the attention off the expectation of them willingly eating the food. See an expansion of their diet as a long distance run rather than a sprint.

Let them be involved in making the meal. It will become a fun activity that they can look forward to. Talk about taste and texture while handling foods. Break a carrot in half and you take a bite. “Hmmm, crunchy and it tastes sweet “. Let them explore with their hands. The younger you do this the better. Babies first reaction to exploration is to put things in their mouth! Get children used to the touch, texture and smell of different foods even before you expect them to eat them.

My daughter grew up in our restaurant and her son grew up on her hip in her kitchen. One of his favourite things to do is cook with Mum. At the age of eight he has a very sophisticated palate.

To get babies and toddler to eat a new food, you may need to introduce it again and again. It may take up to 15 exposures for him to like a new food. This doesn’t mean 15 times in a row. Give it a break and then re-introduce it cooked differently, at different times and with different accompanying foods.

The main thing to remember is patient and don’t expect immediate results. If you are really worried, talk to your doctor or paediatrician.




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In Home Care Services Direct does not employ, recommend or endorse any caregiver or care seeker. Nor is it responsible for the conduct of any caregiver or care seeker. In Home Care Services Direct provides information and tools to help care seekers and caregivers connect and make informed decisions. Each individual is solely responsible for selecting an appropriate caregiver or care seekers for themselves or families and for complying with all appropriate laws in connection with any employment relationship they establish. In Home Care Services Direct does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or engage in any conduct that requires a professional licence.

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