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Managing Fussy Eaters

Fussy eating can challenge parents and carers when children refuse to try new foods or eat what has been served. This response is part of children’s development and growing independence.

Below are some ideas for your child to develop healthy eating behaviours.

Have set mealtime routines

  • Establish set times for meals and snacks. This can prepare your child for lunch and recess times at school.

  • Remove distractions such as toys, books and screens (television, tablets, phones).

  • Eat as a family and keep mealtimes relaxed and calm.

  • Provide small portions and allow your child to have more if they wish.

Encourage your child’s interest in new foods

  • Involve your child in meal planning, food shopping, preparation and cooking. Allow them to choose some foods such as a new fruit or vegetable or suitable meal for dinner.

  • Invite your child to plant, water and harvest produce from the garden.

  • Try not to label your child as fussy or picky.

  • Encourage your child to look, touch and smell new foods.

  • Make meals and snacks interesting by including different colours, shapes and textures.

Role model, be positive and don’t give up!

  • Eat and enjoy a variety of healthy foods yourself.

  • It can take 10-15 times before new foods are accepted – be patient and offer new foods regularly.

  • Praise your child when they have touched, smelt or tasted a new food.

  • Resist force-feeding or promising food-based rewards such as dessert. Link food to a positive benefit such as energy for playing, protein for growing muscles, calcium for strong teeth and bones.

There are multiple factors that may impact children’s eating behaviours so if you have concerns, an Accredited Practising Dietitian or other health professional can provide advice.

For further information and tips on fussy eating, click on the links below:

Munch & Move fact sheet - Encouraging children to try new foods and managing fussy eaters

Sydney Local Health District - Fuss Free Mealtimes

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network - Fussy Eating in Toddlers

Raising Children Network - About fussy eating and fussy eaters