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Catering for Fussy Eaters

By: Anna Hinds BA (hons) - Updated: 10 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Children Fussy Eaters Food Meals Taste

Managing a fussy eater demands a lot of patience. Your Cookery Group is the perfect place to find support ideas, and recipes that will help to coax your fussy eater out of his or her faddy phase. Run this Cookery Group meeting in conjunction with our ‘Nutrition and Vitamins’ topic.

Facing Facts

There is some good news. Almost all children go through eating phases: won’t eat these, must pick out those, will only eat this. Research has shown that you may have to give your child broccoli between 8 and 15 times before (s)he will agree to taste it! Find comfort in discussing issues with your group. All children have different patterns and phases, and you may be able to learn some techniques to deal with yours.

Recommended Techniques for Fussy Eaters

The government offers guidelines for parents who are dealing with fussy eaters. Because children really do need a balanced diet, it’s very important to get involved and do all that you can at this stage in their lives. With your cookery group, discuss the following tips:
  • Involve your children in preparing (and even growing) your food. Bring them into the kitchen as you cook and give them simple tasks; let them taste as you go along.
  • Don’t overwhelm your child with a plate full of new foods. Combine old favourites with new things: macaroni cheese with peas, or pizza with grilled peppers on top.
  • If you’re serving something new, let your child taste and spit it out if they don’t like it – provide a tissue for them to spit into.
  • Use encouragement rather than persuasion, praising your child for eating their food instead of being cross about what they’ve left.
  • Eat your meals as a family whenever you can, and always eat a little with your child, setting them a good example.
  • Don’t insist on a clean plate.
  • Don’t make a fuss if your child refuses his food. Calmly take away the plate, and offer a healthy alternative.
  • Be prepared with a number of alternatives: egg and soldiers, tomato soup, or a toasted sandwich.
  • Once your child has refused something, cook it again and give yourself a large serving. Openly enjoy it, and offer your child a taste. Foods from another plate are often more inviting!
  • Don’t use sweets or puddings as rewards – no matter how tempting this is! You’re giving your child the message that eating vegetables is a chore, and eating sweets is a reward.

Tips for Cooking for Fussy Eaters

When you start discussing it, you’ll probably find that every member of your group has some secret tricks for getting more greens into their little ones! It might be a good idea for the group leader to take notes and photocopy them for handing out at your next meeting. If you’re short on inspiration, discuss some of these cookery tips:
  • If your children love cheese, make the most of it! Smother healthy vegetables in cheesy sauce or bury them under the topping on a yummy pizza. Mild, creamy pasta is loved by very many children. You can add pureed onion, mashed broccoli or wilted spinach (in small amounts) to their bowl, and watch it disappear.
  • Tomato sauce and soup is another popular dish, and it’s easy to incorporate vegetables into these as well. Try whizzing up a flavoursome tomato-and-vegetable soup and serving with toast fingers.
  • Raw vegetables, eaten with fingers, are sometimes more appealing than boiled veg. Cut up a small selection and serve with a delicious dip.
  • Vary lunchboxes by trying out wraps instead of sandwiches, small boxes of salad with cheese, or fruit crudités with a jar of toffee sauce.

Writers and Resources - Fussy Eaters

Annabel Karmel is the UK’s favourite children’s food writer. She has written about cooking for babies, toddlers and older children, including a book devoted to fussy eaters. Other writers who cover family cooking include Rachel Allen and Tana Ramsay. Looking for new ways with vegetables? Rose Eliot is a leading vegetarian writer whose books focus on fast, fresh, appealing foods; you’ll find lots of unusual ideas for vegetables in her recent works.

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