20 Nov, 2023

Fussy eaters driving you mad?

Mother and son at dining table illustration HBHF

Fussy eating is common in young children, they can often dislike foods or textures, especially if they're new. This gets easier as tamariki get older.

We know how stressful it can be navigating tantrums at mealtimes, while trying to get healthy food into your child.

We’ve spoken to plenty of Mamas and have got some advice to help you get more nutrients into your fussy eaters.

Mix it up

Tamariki will often refuse foods to test their boundaries, it's a normal part of their development.

To work around these difficulties, offer your child a small amount of foods they refuse, alongside foods they like.

This helps create a positive environment and associations. They are more likely to try something they don’t like when offered it with something they love.

Grumpy child illustration HBHF

Praise them

We know it sounds counter-intuitive to be encouraging fussy eating, but remaining calm is really important.

Children pick up on our stress and anger, so try to keep the mealtime relaxing and enjoyable by praising them for being open-minded.

Bribing or forcing them can often lead to a full meltdown, so it's best to be positive and encouraging.

Eat together

Children love to copy what they see you and other whānau do. If there's a range of foods available for them to try, while seeing you eat them, they will probably follow in your footsteps.

Most children will try more foods as they get older, it just takes them time to warm up to new foods. However, sometimes tamariki can eat so little that they begin to lose weight or become unwell.

A good sign that your child is healthy is if they have the energy to learn, play and explore. If you do have concerns that they aren’t healthy, are only eating a small range of foods or aren’t eating enough, see your family doctor as soon as possible.

Interested in finding out more about the Healthy Babies, Healthy Futures programme?

If you are:

  • of Pacific descent
  • pregnant or the main caregiver of a child under 4 years old
  • and live in the Waitemata District, West Auckland or North Shore

you could be eligible to join the free Healthy Babies, Healthy Futures Programme.