9 Easy Ways to Handle Fussy Eaters - Know Diet, Meal Ideas
Created by Parentune Support Updated on Sep 13, 2021
It is natural for parents to worry whether their little one is getting enough nutritious food or not, and especially if he is a fussy eater. It happens very often, that the child picks up his favorite stuff from the plate and leaves the rest or gets back his tiffin untouched from the school, accompanied with several excuses. But also partially true is the fact, that most of the times take the same picky eater child to a fast food café and the scenario takes a 360 degree turn--you might even end up requesting for an extra helping of the cola or the empty-calorie laden junk.
But who is a Fussy Eater ?
Fussing eating is a very common phenomenon with most children and we as parents, are at our wits end, trying to feed their little tummies.
A toddler who refuses to try a new food at least half of the time can be categorized as a fussy eater. And almost 80 percent of children very well fit into this category. In fact, research also shows that no child will like everything at the very first time , nor will he eat what you serve at every meal – but slowly and steadily he will pick up habits from family and peers. Although, children, generally outgrow this eating habit or disorder with age, but these days, the problem is compounded, thanks to the easy availability and exposure to junk food. After all, it is a bitter truth that fussy eaters are not born but made !!
Imagine a common scenario in most households: A mother cooks a healthy meal but the fussy eater child refuses to eat it. So, what are the options at this stage..
- make something else for him
- let the food war continue , and let him get up only when he finishes everything on plate
- Wrap up and serve later.
My experience says that if your answer is either 1 or 2, you need to buckle up for the third one. Instead of stressing yourself out or the child with the food, stow it away for when the child will be hungry later.
Meal Ideas or Diet for Fussy Eaters
You as parents need to keep aside our anxieties and learn the fact the hunger is a basic need of the body and when the child will be hungry, he will eat. Also, here are some more pointers on dealing heallthy diet for fussy eater child:
- Be realistic in the amount of food you put into the plate: Children have a bird’s appetite and a big plate of food with a bowl of dal, chapatti and vegetable can scare them. Try giving them smaller but creative portions. For eg: instead of 1 big chapatti, make 2 small ones, fill in some dry roasted dal and veggies and serve as wraps.
- Never use food as rewards: It is very common that we often tell the child, “Finish your roti first and then you can get a toffee.” This slowly trains their brain to decipher that routine food, roti or vegetables, are unpleasant and toffee is good. But this isn’t what we are aiming for, right? Rewards should be like an extra hour at park or an indoor game. Be a good role model yourself and follow the same food habits you want your child to adopt – Monkeys see , monkeys do.
- Eating is always more fun when kids can associate food with their daily activities– a story, an animal or may be their favorite color or rhyme. Give funky names to food: ‘Darling can we have some Popeye chapatti’ (chapatti dough kneaded in spinach) instead of serving a normal chapatti ; a beet and veggie rice can be called fairy rice, for toddlers mash some dal with rice and veggies shape into tiny balls and serve as chotta bheem ke takatvar ladoo; mix yogurt with some fresh fruits, make some features and serve flavored yogurt. Funky cookie cutters or moulds are the simplest way to add that zing to your kids meals. These small tricks always help.
- Feeding fussy toddler needs creativity: During the initial school days many children want to stay back home , but we a parents put in our best efforts to inculcate in our children a liking towards school – so is the case with healthy eating. Use your imagination and creativity, and not at Ipad, to feed the child. Keeping the erratic patterns of your child in mind , aim for a nutritionally balanced week .
- Serve more finger foods: Children love food on sticks or food served in small portions. Instead of heaping his plate with watermelon , divide a slice into wedges and skew on a skewer as ice pops. Or string some grapes and cherry tomato on a skewer, garnish with cheesy eyes to make a caterpillar on stick (use honey and cheese spread act as perfect edible glue to stick those cheesy eyes). Don’t forget to serve some healthy dips with it. Make sure to limit the untimely snacking which can fill up his little tummy and leave no room for meals.
- Make little ones understand the importance of healthy eating: The old Chinese proverb “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand” beautifully enlightens this wisdom. Involving kids occasionally in picking up healthy grocery from the store, planning and preparing meals and serving creatively are simple smart moves that encourage healthy eating. Get involved in some small fun food activities with them, you don’t need to be a great artist to make some cute food for the kid. Lay the sliced cucumber creatively as grapes or tiny veggie watermelons or together transform simple whole grain sandwiches to creative ones.
- Plan some simple age appropriate activities: Use fruits, vegetables and wholegrain bread for some fun. Mash and season some potatoes and arrange as clouds, then join both the clouds with a colorful rainbow vegetable arch. While slicing some cherry tomatoes tell him how red foods are rich in beta carotene that helps keep our skin fresh and supple and that the vitamin A of carrots improves our night vision. While he is actively involved arranging corn kernel, peas and finely shredded purple cabbage to arrange and complete the rainbow tell him the benefits of each.
- Dedicate a day of the week as a ‘play with food day’: Invite your child’s friends and help him whip up some cute healthy treats for all. Also make him prepare a few lines on its benefits, the applause from all his friends would be a great motivation. Let him show his skills with a quick wholegrain sandwich or tiny tomato cups to fill in healthy fillings. Also remember to prepare some creative healthy versions of junks with them, they would love to try their hands and feed their palates too – a soy patty burger , baked wholegrain pasta, roti noodles, or fruity oatmeal crumbles could be great to start with.
- Tiffin Time: Pack creative colourful tiffins in age appropriate sizes. If the little one likes paratha / sandwich play with the fillings, or if he’s fond of idlis – puree some veggies and make the regular white idlis more appealing and colorful. Bite sizes, finger foods and rolls are perfect to add in lunch boxes. Pick up some colorful forks and spoons and especially silicon cups to use as dividers for fruits and other helpings. Discuss with him about his likings and tweak a healthier version to pack. Of course he’d love a few festive additions off and on.. so go ahead and play !!!
Diet for Fussy Eaters
Here are some Quick tips to jazz up the food and the nutritional diet in toddlers..
- Play with the Recipes: Transform a regular aloo paratha to pizza paratha by adding some veggies, pizza sauce and cheese to the filling. Instead of serving dal in a bowl, serve variations like daal tikkis/kebabs, dosas , steamed balls or dumplings.
- Boil and puree a bottlegourd and use for kneading dough.
- Use a spiral slicer or funky mandolins to make carrot and zucchini noodles and ribbons. Season with some salt, lime juice and toasted sesame.
- Make creative enriching dips like hummus, tahini, chana dal chutney , peanut /cashew dips to serve with veggie sticks or to spread on breads .
- Add finely chopped veggies to hung yogurt and use as sandwich fillings.
- Add some apple puree, carrots or zucchini while baking treats for them and disclose after they have gulped it down
Sit together, narrate simple stories, create and eat it. Changes surely won’t happen overnight but these little moves will surely inspire kids to try new foods and gradually develop liking for healthy foods.
Fussy Eater friendly Quick Food Recipes
Preparation time- 5 mins
Cooking time – 5 mins
Roti Noodles Ingredients
2 rotis ( leftovers work well)
¼ cup sliced colorful bell peppers
¼ cup cabbage
2 tbsp sweet corn
1 small onion finely sliced
2-3 garlic flakes minced
2 tsp tomato sauce
½ tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp white sesame seeds
Salt ,pepper & lemon juice to taste
1 tsp oil
2-3 cherry tomatoes halved (for garnishing)
- Using a kitchen scissors, cut the chapatti into quarters and further into thin strips . Heat oil in a pan and sauté garlic and onions till pink.
- Mix in rest of the vegetables along with the sauces and sesame seeds. Add in the roti strips & mix well, cook for 2 mins.
- Season with salt ,pepper and drizzle some lemon juice. Serve.
| Sep 14, 2014
definitely kids would not accept these tricks(infact any tricks) relating to food. you would be surprised to see new tricks adopted by them to decline. But keep trying. do the same for certain days. (remember the movie laage raho munna bhai) then a small change would be there. try involving him with at this point, like get a cake knife and ask him to cut banana. as i mentioned never worry about the mess. If he understand better show him the poor children about the food they are eating,resulting weakness. ask his teacher in the class to tell them about the results of not having proper food atleast for week and appreciate a student for eating good for that week. this would work.
| Nov 11, 2014
Hi Sunayana, this could be a side effect of some anti biotics or medicines also. You should give her some probiotic supplement such as enterogermina (check with your doctor) or if she is old enough give her yakult to get her stomach health back and that will gradually improve appetite. also give her gut friendly foods such as dahi. once her gut is healthy, her body will respond better to food and she will get her appetite back.
| Mar 30, 2015
hi, Thanks for wonderful suggestion. My daughter is now 3 year old but she had some kind of phobia with vegetables,... she don't want to try any means any kind of veg..... not even potatoes or green peas.... Tried all method but she just spit it out saying "ismay subzi hai" though at times he gave it in pizza. M really tired now trying ...,, all she have is chapati and Dal that too yellow coloured Dal only .... Pls help and suggest
| Sep 19, 2015
Hi, really good information. I do have a question, i am confused as to why my sons interest to a particular food ( for e. g. If he was eating bananas and plantains before 3 weeks now he hates it). This is quiet upsetting, i try to bring variety in his feeds but all of sudden if he dislikes things What should i do?
| Jul 05, 2017
My 2yr old girl just swallows everything.... she finds it very hard to chew food. Thastwhy all i can give her khichrri, oats porridge etc etc. I feel her diet is very poor... no wonder she is only 12kg... she was only 2. 5kg during birth but very active though. Pls help.
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