How to Avoid Raising a Fussy Eater

Every child is a picky eater occasionally. From an early age, your child will have particular food prefer­ences. This phase may pass within a few days, or it may be more long-lasting. Surveys have found that

  • while only 10 percent of parents worry about their child’s eating habits when he is one year old, this figure leaps to 42 percent by the time the child is four;
  • 10 percent of three-year-olds are described by their parents as “finicky about their food”;
  • 31 percent of children who have poor appetites at the age of three still have poor appetites when they are eight.

You’re not alone in having a child who is a fussy eater, who sits and picks at his food as though he’s afraid harm will befall him if he swallows it. A picky eater can spoil mealtimes—in fact, if your child is one, you may find it easier to serve his meal first, allowing the rest of you to sit down peacefully when he is fin­ished. To change your child’s eating habits, try these suggestions:


  • Do serve meals at regular times. Routine is especially impor­tant with a fussy eater. Having meals at reasonably fixed intervals means that your child doesn’t get too hungry or overtired, both of which upset his appetite.
  • Do keep meals simple. The more time and effort you invest in a meal, the more upset you’ll be when your child doesn’t wolf it down—so don’t slave over a hot stove for hours.
  • Do make the food attractive. Some parents expect their child to eat food that they wouldn’t touch themselves. Bear in mind that if the sight of a particular meal makes you turn up your nose, then it may have the same effect on your child.
  • Do let your child finger-feed. Table manners are important, -> but your child will acquire these later. What matters is that the food gets inside his tummy; it has the same nutritional value whether it arrives at his mouth by hand or by fork.
  • Do end the meal when your child has had enough. Keeping a toddler trapped in his high chair in the hope he’ll eat more is pointless. When your child has stopped eating, lift him down. The same applies to an older child who asks to leave the table. There is no harm in some gentle persuasion at that stage, but don’t let it build up into a confrontation.

  • Do allow your child choice. Your child will approach meal­times with enthusiasm if he has a choice over what to eat. This doesn’t mean you should run your house like a restau­rant, but it does mean you could let him choose from two items for lunch (for example, scrambled eggs on toast, or yogurt followed by fresh fruit).
  • Do be flexible. The order in which food is served isn’t fixed by law! Young children love to experiment with everything, including food. You may not find the thought of soup mixed with salad attractive, but your child may. If he wants to experiment this way, let him.
  • Do set a good example yourself. Your child will copy your bad eating habits. If you come home munching a bag of greasy fries, you can hardly expect your child to behave differently.


  • Never, ever force-feed your child. No matter how desperately you want him to finish his meal, you can’t force him to eat it—try and you’ll end up feeling drained, while he’ll end up being sick.
  • Don’t hover during mealtimes. Nothing is more likely to make your child anxious about eating than seeing you hover about while you study every mouthful he takes. You don’t like someone peering intently at you during meals—neither does your child.
  • Don’t exclude your child during preparations. One way to encourage your child to eat a meal is to involve him in its preparation. Of course, you’re not going to ask a young child to cook a hot dish, but a two-year-old can put a cup on the table and wash the potatoes, and a four-year-old can help set out the silverware, cut out cookies, and stir.
  • Don’t stay silent. Just as you enjoy a good chat while eating, so does your child. Sit down beside him and talk. This way, eating becomes a social occasion.
  • Don’t be negative. Work on the assumption that your child isn’t going to starve, no matter how little he eats. The more you worry, the more tense he’ll be every time you put a plate of food in front of him.
  • Don’t use threats. Out of sheer frustration, you may be tempted to cajole your child with promises and threats such as, “You can have some dessert if you eat your spinach” or, “Your dad will be furious when he hears you’ve not eaten your spinach.” This rarely works, because your child may well think to himself, “The spinach must be really awful or mom wouldn’t try so hard to persuade me to eat it.”
  • Don’t concede defeat when your child rejects a new food. Chil­dren take time to acquire tastes for unfamiliar foods. When you do try to introduce a new item into your child’s diet, persevere a couple of times a week, for at least a month. He may gradually develop a taste for it.
  • Don’t rush through meals. Mealtime is a social occasion, not just a time to fuel the body as quickly as possible. Food is more easily digested in a calm, unhurried atmosphere. A fussy eater is usually also a slow eater, and he needs lots of time to work his way through a meal. This will be particular­ly noticeable at breakfast, so wake him up in plenty of time.

Filed Under: General How To's


About the Author: Bruno Silva is an entrepreneur from Portugal with over 15 years of experience in Online Marketing. He is also a blogger and writes on variety of topics from online marketing to designs, cars to loans, etc.

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