Skip to content ↓

Fussy eating? A parent's guide to navigating picky palates.

Parenting: there’s no two ways about it, a huge joy and also a challenge! Of the many challenges we face as parents, ‘fussy’ eating is one that comes up a lot. But why are some children so selective about their eating and what can we do as parents to support the development of healthy eating habits?

Children can be very selective eaters for a variety of reasons and often, detective work is involved to try to figure out exactly what is going on:

  • Taste and texture preferences: Children may have sensitive taste buds or preferences for certain textures, making them reluctant to try new foods.

  • Developmental stage: ‘Picky’ eating is often a normal part of a child's development, especially during the toddler and preschool years when they are asserting their independence.

  • Sensory sensitivities: Some children may have sensory sensitivities that make them more selective about the foods they eat based on their taste, smell or texture.

  • Parental influence: Children may pick up on our attitudes towards food and eating habits.

  • Lack of exposure: Limited exposure to a variety of foods and flavours can contribute to very selective eating habits.

  • Attention seeking: Some children may use ‘picky’ eating as a way to seek attention or assert control over mealtimes.

  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as sensory processing disorders, gastrointestinal issues, or oral motor difficulties, can also contribute to very selective eating.

Managing and supporting our selective eaters can be challenging, frustrating and worrying, but it's important to try to approach this with patience and understanding:

  • Avoid pressuring or forcing children to eat certain foods (this can often make the situation worse), but do offer encouragement and praise for trying new foods.

  • Encourage a positive and relaxed mealtime environment.

  • Offer a variety of healthy food choices including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

  • Let children help with meal planning and preparation to increase their interest in trying new foods.

  • Set a good example: Children often mimic their parents' eating habits, so be a role model by eating a diverse and balanced diet.

  • Stick to a routine: Establish regular meal and snack times to help children develop healthy eating habits.

  • Limit sugary and processed foods: Minimise the availability of unhealthy food and drink options in the house to encourage better food choices.

  • Offer small portions: Start with small portions of new foods to reduce the pressure on children to finish everything on their plate.

  • Be creative with presentation: Make meals visually appealing by arranging food in fun shapes or using colourful ingredients to make them more enticing.

Of course, every child is different, and it can take time and patience to help them develop healthier eating habits. If your child's eating habits are causing concern or affecting their growth and development, always consult your GP or a nutritionist for further guidance and support.

Faye Green is Head of Pre Prep at Radnor House Sevenoaks

Paste in video URL and save page via the "Edit" tab at the top of the page