Picky Eaters aka Every Child Ever!


20130910_112606-1Feeding toddlers and children is always a massive topic for discussion. It is something we all worry about.We want our children to have a healty diet and live in fear of processed food, sugary treats and of course the demon salt!! Following on from one of my reader’s requests, I am writing today to try and give some tips and advice on trying to encourage a healthy and balanced attitude to food in our children. I have written previously about encouraging toddlers to eat but that was focussed on moving from baby to toddler – today’s post is for older children too.

I am taking it as read that we all do our best to plan healthy, family-friendly menus – if you don’t, and are finding yourself struggling daily, then the good news is there are a wealth of resources online for planning family-centered inexpensive menus. ‘Wholesome Ireland’ and’ Tasty Thursdays’ on Parent.ie are just two that spring to mind as a couple of examples. However, taking into account all our healthy planning, and our clever camouflaging of vegetables into delicious sauces, every child without exception goes through phases of ‘ I am NOT eating THAT!!’. I recently made one of our family favourites – a risotto verde (pureed peas and spinach making the ‘verde’); my son pushed it away and refused point blank to eat such a ‘yucky’ meal. He ate it the week before and has eaten it since, but that day it was disgusting to him. Sigh. Since Easter, my baby (2) has been making regular requests for ‘chocli’ (or ‘chocolate’ for the uninitiated) usually before breakfast – the chopped fruit and bread-stick snacks are being handed back as the ‘chocli’ demands escalate.

So what do do? How do we encourage healthy attitudes to food? Well, here are some things I do and have advised distraught parents in the past to do too:

  • Make sure they are hungry at mealtimes: space out meals with at least three and a half hours between each one, and try and ensure they have a good bit of fresh air/physical activity in the meantime.
  • Get them involved: Toddlers can wash vegetables, preschoolers can peel them and older children can chop and mash! The more involved they are, the more inclined they will be to eat the meal they prepared themselves. (You may want to save this for weekends though as it’s not conducive to making a quick meal)
  • Have regular meal times
  • Don’t offer a menu: It is enough pressure on us to have three (sometimes two) meals at the table without making four different meals to please everyone. If food is refused – see below.
  • Don’t force the issue: If the meal is pushed away, encourage a few bites but if you still get ‘no’, that’s fine. However they do have to remain at the table until everyone else is finished their meal, they will forego dessert and will not be eating again until their next meal. (Resist the urge to give them an ice cream an hour later just to ‘keep them going’, I have been guilty of that one in the past..)
  • Raw is good:If they positively HATE cooked vegetables, give them to them raw before the meal. My daughter loves raw carrots and brocolli but will not even consider them cooked. If they see a vegetable they hate on the plate, they can be put off an entire meal that they would otherwise have eaten.
  • Include dessert: it doesn’t have to be massive or high in sugar – just a fruit salad or yoghurt, but the message should be that meal times are a pleasure not a chore.
  • Check portion size: Give children small portions on small plates; they can always have seconds. A heaped plate of food can be very off-putting.
  • Choose snacks wisely: Milk, cheese and yoghurts are full of dairy goodness but are very filling between meals. Offer dairy with meals and keep snacks to fruit and vegetables.
  • Cut down on snacks: If your child is not eating their main meals, don’t give them snacks. If they are eating their meals, make sure their snack is exactly that – small and snack-sized!
  • Keep  fruit in a bowl within easy reach: Allowing children the independence to choose their own snack.
  • Don’t demonise sugar: Biscuits, squash, crisps and ice cream etc are all fine in strict moderation. Offer them once or twice a week – you do not want them to become the ‘holy grail’ of food.
Treats are  good!

Treats are good!

I really hope that something written above helps you to relieve the tension of mealtimes; however, if all else fails, please remember that if your child skips a meal or two, it is not the end of the world – it is just a phase that all children go through. Generally, once they experience how hungry skipping meals can make them, they tend to start appreciating your hard work!!


Thanks for reading,



p.s. I love feedback so please add any thoughts or comments below!



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