cildren eat healthy galway
cildren eat healthy galway

5 changes with big impact for fussy eaters

Today Im going to suggest some changes you can make to have a positive impact on your fussy eaters. 


 fussy eater

Did you know?

Young kids don’t have stable taste preferences. Young kids  are still exploring. They don’t always know what they like, for example, new foods. You can shape your kids’ food preferences; and feeding your kids only their preferences reinforces them.


1 Always ensure there is at least one “reasonable” food served at all times.

The reasonable food means that its acceptable to even the most fussy of  eaters . This might be for example, a small portion of fruit, pasta etc


2 Think more long-term and start looking beyond the immediate meal.

For example, if your child eats very little or nothing at all at a given meal or snack then don’t offer an alternative afterwards. If you do offer an alternative, it  can set up the expectation that there is always a ‘back-up’. This means many children can ‘hold out’ for the better option, for example, cereal after dinner isn’t eaten. This works best if you consistently do this. Of course you can re-offer some of the meal at the later time if they are still hungry.


3 Serve the same meal for everyone including picky eaters.

This means less work for you as the cook (yipee) but it also sets up the expectation that the same food is served to everyone and there are no ‘special’ foods just for the kids.

One really simple way of doing this is to ‘deconstruct’ the meal, that means serve all the elements of the meal separately.  For example if its spaghetti bolognese with veg, - serve the spaghetti, tomato sauce, meat (or vegetarian option) and veg all separately. Then let your fussy eater pick the parts they want to eat. This works best if there is one “reasonable” food served as part of the meal.


4 Grazing

For many fussy eaters, grazing (that is eating  small  amounts  very  frequently ) is common. This is the NUMBER ONE  REASON children have poor appetites. If children ‘graze’ in toddlerhood the chances are their preferred foods will be ‘picnic’ type foods (that is dry, cold foods). This can make it less likely for them to try other foods, for example, wet or hot foods. Equally, if your child is a grazer, they just won’t have sufficient appetite to eat a meal and the snacking cycle continues.

I recommend setting up times for eating and  times for not-eating.  This means have a ‘no food’ window that is no food or drinks, only water (exceptions include hot weather and illness etc). You decide this…roughly, so there is some flexibility.

 What this looks like varies depending on your kids, and may differ on different days depending on your schedule etc. For many kids the aim is to have no more than 3 meals and 2 snacks per day (plus possible bedtime snack), ideally with at least a 1 hour, if not 2 hour gap between eating.  One way to do this is to start increasing the gap between meals and snacks by a small amount (like 15 minutes) every day until you approach a more ideal schedule. This allows your child sufficient time to get hungry before food is presented again.


5 Rethink snacking.

Instead of always serving snack-type foods like crackers, think of snacks as mini-meals and offer’ meal-type food’ like soup and vegetables sometimes. Therefore if you improve the quality of snacks you are improving a significant portion of the day’s nutrition, without even considering meals. In terms of quantity, snacks are meant to tide us over until the next meal rather than fill us up. Finally there should be sufficient time left between snack and the next meal so that your child has sufficient appetite to eat the meal.

This article first appeared on

The above information is general only and does not apply to everyone. If you’re looking for personalised, healthy eating support and advice for your child, why not consider booking a consultation with me? Email me at

Dr. Colette Reynolds
Nutrition Coach & Child's Healthy Eating Specialist
BA (Psych), MSc (Health Psych), PhD (Health Promotion), Member of AHPI, BTEC (Nutrition & Health Coaching), IINH Certified
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