Saturday, 25 February 2017

How To Overcome Fussy Eating: My Top Tips

From the day she was born Emelia has always eaten well.  She thrived when weaning and would eat pretty much anything I put in front of her.  I do however, think every child goes through a fussy eating stage.  Recently I've noticed her eating habits have changed, she has still eaten adequately but no where near as well as she has previously.  She began refusing some of her favourite foods which got me thinking, something must have triggered a sudden change, she would always ask for the same meal - pasta.  On reflection I realised the change coincided with me going in and out of hospital and subsequently spending a lot of time visiting Oscar in Intensive Care.  Her routine was all over the place and we really weren't spending much time as a family, let alone having meals together - which was something we always used to do at least once a day.  Something that is likely to be pretty controversial is allowing her to go to bed hungry (of course we don't and haven't ever let her starve), if I cook a meal and she doesn't eat in then I won't make her anything else and she won't be allowed her cup of milk before bed.  If I make something new, she tries a bit and doesn't like it we encourage her to eat other things on her plate, for example, she hasn't eaten chicken for a while, but she will eat the veg, if she refuses to eat anything then she goes without.  More often than not she will think about it for a while, and then eat it after all, but there have been a couple of occasions where she's gone to bed without.  Some won't agree with me I'm sure, but children learn so quickly and if we gave into her once it wouldn't take long for her to realise if she says she doesn't want/like what I've made she can have something else.

I began thinking about the change in Emelia's eating habits and how we could address it without drawing more attention to the situation.  There's no mistaking that some of it has probably been down to power, toddlers are used to being told what to wear, when to sleep, where to go etc.  It doesn't take long for them to realise that they have some control over what they do and don't put in their mouths.  As previously mentioned, for the most part we've been lucky with Emelia, although I do think the recent changes in eating habits have been down to changes in our day to day life, all of which she had absolutely no control over.  Pasta is her favourite meal, whether it's with a sauce or fairly plain with vegetables, as long as there's some pasta she's happy.  It's all she has wanted to eat, and I suppose we are all guilty of comfort eating at times, pasta is just her comfort.  I wanted to get to grips with this 'fussy eating' before it got any worse and developed into a long term issue.

I'm no expert and I'm sure compared to some children she still eats extremely well, however, I wanted to share our experience and a few things that we have done that seems to have/be helping to nip any fussy eating the bud!

Eating As A Family 

Something we haven't been great at recently for obvious reasons, however, having made a conscious decision to get back to our routine we've been sitting down as a family for at least one meal a day, usually the evening meal.  Sitting down as a family isn't actually about the nutritional aspects, it's about spending the time together.  Children watch and pick up on everything, Emelia certainly doesn't miss a trick, so sitting down together means she is watching how we eat and connect, children ultimately want to please, we have found she wants to be the same and copies, therefore without her even really realising she's eating well. 

Table Manners 

Bad table manners are my ultimate pet peeve of mine, so I've always been quite clear on my expectations of behaviour at the dinner table, we try to be consistent and encourage good behaviour.   As previously mentioned, if Emelia refuses a particular food we don't make a big issue out of it, but we explain to her that there will be no alternative, and certainly nothing sweet!  We never force her to eat though, I stand by my views that if a child is hungry they will eat, even if it's not their favourite meal in front of them! 

Help With Preparation 

Where possible I try to get Emelia involved when preparing a meal, this makes her more interested in the meal and excited about it being ready, there are times when she can't help prepare the meal, in which case I encourage her to help set the table, choose which plate and cup she would like and help herself to a glass of water. 


The biggest change and one I have found to work the best is not plating up her food for her.  We have started putting serving dishes on the table for everyone to help themselves.  Emelia loves being able to help herself, I'm sure it gives her back a sense of control about what she's eating as she can choose how much she puts on her plate and which foods she wants to choose, she's then eating the same food she may have refused a few days before and more often than not she goes back for seconds.  This process might seem like a faff and extra clearing up, but it has been worth it, and I will continue to do it.  She's started eating chicken again - which is a big thing for us as she hasn't touched it for months. 

Some may not agree with our strategies and not everything will work for every family and child, but I hope, if you're going through a fussy eating stage with your child, you might be able to take something from things that have worked for us. 

I'd love to hear your tips and experiences when it comes to fussy eating, please share them in the comments :)



  1. This is all so true. We're not always able to eat as a family during the week because of my husband's work but I always notice that my toddler eats better when we do eat together.

    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps xx

  2. This was such a lovely read! My mum was the same with us in regards to if you don't eat whats on your plate you go without. Another one she enforced was not to leave the table until we were finished. If we left the table that meant no more food (or desert) and this worked well when we were all out and i think these are 2 things ill enforce too.

    I'm so glad she's started eating chicken again too! The serving plates sounds like a great idea!!!

    Lucie -

  3. I am hot on table manners, my huge gripe is when kids say they can't eat anymore but the parent still offers a pudding (which obviously the kids will eat!) if they're saying they are full, they should be treated like they are.