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Fed up with food fights? Here are some ways to deal with a picky eater

Bella Heim

Bella Heim

Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read

Well, well, well! Look who it is! It’s you and me – parents of little dictators (yes, toddlers). And today, we’re going to talk about a topic that’s close to every parent’s heart – fussy eating. Now, before we dive into the deep end, let’s start with a little story, shall we?

Once upon a time, there was a little toddler named Charlie. Charlie was a picky eater. He would only eat cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, chips, and cake- and a lot of that too. And mind you, he would only take a bite if they were cooked to perfection. His poor mummy would spend hours in the kitchen, trying to come up with new recipes and hiding veggies in his food, but he always managed to figure it out and throw it all over the floor.


That, my friend, is not a story, it is my reality, and probably one that you can well relate to.

You know those days when you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove, creating a gourmet meal fit for a king? You’ve put your heart and soul into it, and you couldn’t wait for your sweetie to try it. But as soon as you put it in front of them, they take one look at it and scream, “YUCK!”. Or if they feel like being nice, they will simply walk away.

It hurts a lot, I know. You feel unappreciated, exhausted, and hopeless. You start worrying if they are getting enough nutrients, and wonder if you are just a failing chef.

But it is not your fault at all. Kids are notoriously picky eaters. And the good news I have for you today is that there are solutions that might just work wonders:

Get creative with presentation

If you’re tired of battling with your mini-humans over mealtime, I have a sneaky solution. Small kids can be pretty tough customers when it comes to food – they won’t touch anything that doesn’t look like it belongs in a cartoon. Kids are attracted to bright colours, and fun shapes, so, let’s get creative with the presentation!

This means bringing out your inner Picasso and turning those boring old fruits and veggies into works of art. You can try to use cookie cutters to make star-shaped carrots or heart-shaped watermelons. The possibilities are endless!

Your little munchkins will find mealtimes more exciting, and they might just be willing to try new foods when it looks fun. Who knows, you might even stumble upon their new favourite dish (maybe for a day, because we all know a toddler’s preference can change overnight).

But it’s not just about the food itself. The plates and utensils you use can make a difference too. Think colourful plates, and funky utensils, to make mealtimes just a little more exciting. You could even let your kids choose their own special plate or fork to make them feel like they are involved.

Don’t be afraid to get a little silly and bring out your inner child, put yourself in your toddler’s shoes and imagine what they would find interesting. Let your imagination run wild and see what fun and creative ideas you can come up with. Your little one most likely isn’t going to thank you, but maybe at least they will eat their veggies without too much of a fuss.

Involve your child in meal planning and preparation

Well, what if we told you there’s a secret ingredient that could make all the difference? It’s called “involvement”.

Young kids really think they are the boss. When feeling like they have a say in what’s on the menu, they’re more likely to eat it. What you can try to do is to get them involved in meal planning and preparation.

First up, take them grocery shopping with you. Let them pick out a few items for the week’s meals. It could be something as simple as choosing which fruits or veggies to include or picking out their favourite kind of pasta. Get dramatic and be really excited about their choices.

Next, it’s time to get cooking. No, I don’t mean giving them a frying pan on a hot stove.Because that is going to end up disastrous. Let your little one help out in the kitchen by giving them simple tasks like stirring, measuring, and mixing. They’ll love feeling like they’re part of the process and will be more invested in the meal as a result. And if you get really lucky, you might just have a future MasterChef on your hands.

By involving your child in meal planning and preparation, you’re not only making mealtime more enjoyable, but you’re also teaching them valuable life skills. They’ll learn about different foods, how to prepare them, and the importance of a balanced diet (just kidding, they don’t care about that just yet, but at least we are trying?). Enjoy the waves of laughter and smiles when they sense their accomplishment when they see the finished product.

They are definitely going to be more likely to eat a meal they helped create.


Offer healthy options, but don’t force it

Fun is crucial, but it’s even more important to offer healthy options at mealtime. But forcing your little boss to eat something they don’t like is only going to create more resistance. Instead, offer a variety of healthy options, including fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Encourage your child to try new foods, but don’t pressure them into eating something they don’t want to. It’s important to remember that forcing children to eat certain foods they don’t enjoy can backfire (like refusing to eat anything at all). Always respect their preferences and let them make their own choices.

And, if your child truly doesn’t like a particular food, don’t force it. Remember, it can take up to 15 tries for a child to develop a taste for new food, so be patient and keep offering a variety of options.

I know the frustrations that come with dealing with picky eaters, but try your best to be patient and consistent. Don’t give up after one or two attempts. Remember, perseverance is your friend here.  Picky eating is actually a very normal part of childhood development. And just like all other crazy tantrums, you will eventually get the hang of it and come out even more confident as a parent.  So, let your inner Picasso shine, involve your little one in the kitchen, and remember to offer healthy options without forcing it. Who knows, you might just end up being able to have dinner with the whole family in peace (at least once in a while), and a bonus for all your efforts – a cleaner kitchen floor!

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