Tips for Fussy Eaters

Photo by hui sang

Fussy eaters come in all shapes and sizes -- finicky babies, cranky toddlers, and picky pre-teens. But it can be a tad more challenging to work with the younger ones, who are perhaps still developing their palate and learning how to voice their opinion on your world famous lasagna. If you’re unsure about how to handle your fussy babe, here are some suggestions that you may want to try.  

Introduce a Wide Variety of Foods

Trying out different types of food should be the first line of defense. Sometimes, babies simply just don’t like the kind of food that’s been provided. This doesn’t mean serving up a pu pu platter of options. Instead, test various ingredients, textures, and eating methods to see if any catch the child’s interest. Pasta noodles may be too unwieldy, while a potato wedge is more manageable for clumsy hands. For others, a potato wedge might be too mushy and a crispy broccoli floret might be preferred.  

Serve Appropriate Foods

Eating can be an entirely new experience, depending on a child’s developmental stage. This means that mealtimes aren’t just overwhelming for parents, it can be a lot for babies too. Providing food that is appropriate for their developmental stage helps make eating a less stressful experience. Some things to keep in mind are a child’s motor skills, teething stage, and ability to eat unassisted. 

Make Mealtimes Fun

Dealing with a fussy eater can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be boring! Testing different foods and methods can be exciting! If a prim and proper dinner isn’t really your baby’s style, food play might help fussy eaters to associate meals with fun. Suggestion: Provide a small bowl of marinara sauce with cooked plain penne and encourage your baby to dip, play, and eat. Be sure to have a full coverage bib handy for the messy fun that will ensue!

Develop a Mealtime Routine

Routines not only establish a healthy eating schedule, they also help regulate appetite. Sticking to the schedule means no in-between snacks that ruin appetite and supporting metabolic processes, which aid in proper digestion and provide energy for bodies -- very important for growing babies! Routine can also take the shape of engaging your child in food prep. If they’re too young to join in on the cooking, experimenting with putting their own bib on before selecting their own plates or utensils can help children feel more ownership over mealtimes. 

Maintain Healthy Attitudes Toward Eating by Trusting Your Baby

If your little one refuses food, never force feed. The long-term consequence is that a child might begin to associate food with conflict or other uncomfortable emotions that further contribute to fussiness. Trusting your baby’s decision not only communicates your respect for their choices surrounding food, it is also an act of caution. While children can be fussy eaters because of their preferences, fussiness can also occur if they’re dealing with a tummy ache or other underlying medical issue.  

Hopefully, a couple of minor adjustments are all you need to get your child back on track. If not, it might be worth considering a new approach to feeding such as baby led weaning, which prioritizes the experience of your mini-me rather than imposing adult expectations on them. Check out our Baby Led Weaning 101 article for more!