Joe's top 10 tips for fussy eating kids

As a parent to 3 young children under 6, I’m really passionate about helping my kids develop a good relationship with food. I know it’s a tricky, often complicated and sensitive topic for parents, but I really hope by sharing my experiences of what’s worked with us, I can help you on your journey too.

It really is a journey and although not everything I suggest will work for every child, or be realistic to do every day, I believe consistency is the most important thing when it comes to healthy eating.

Try to use these tips as a guide, or a little reminder to come back to if you’re struggling to get your kids eating a more balanced and varied diet.

1. Serve one option

This is probably the most impactful tip I have to offer. My children eat healthy food because it’s the only option they’ve ever had. Try not to let your kids dictate what you serve up because before you know it, you’ll be making 3 different meals a night to cater for them. There will be times my children reject something new but rather than cooking an alternative, I simply let them know there’s nothing else. I suggest they go play for an hour and come back when they're feeling hungrier – 9 times out of 10, they eat it when it’s offered again later on.

2. Don’t rely on snacks

The truth is adults and children do not need snacks to survive. Clever marketing has convinced us we do, but we really can go without them. Children have little tummies and therefore quite small appetites. If I offer my kids snacks after school or in between meals, there’s no chance they're eating the bolognese or stir fry I put down on the table an hour later. Your child needs time between meals to build up their appetite. When you offer a hungry kid something new, they are way more likely to get stuck in.

3. Sit together at meal times

This isn’t always possible, but when you can, try to sit and enjoy food together. It's so important for role modelling, as children learn from what they see and hear. When they see you enjoying the food you offer them, they will be more curious and likely to try new things.

4. Cook together

Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is a fantastic way to help them become more adventurous with food. Not only do they learn a really essential life skill in cooking, they are more inclined to taste the recipes they have helped create. It’s messy and can be a bit stressful at times, but it’s so worth it – and it can be really fun, too.

5. Offer a variety of foods multiple times

Your child may not love boiled broccoli or cauliflower the first time they taste it, so be prepared to offer foods many times and in different ways. I guarantee if you roast them in the oven with some olive oil and some cajun or paprika, they take on a whole new life and the kids will love them.

6. Use herbs and spices

Food needs flavour. Kids don’t need to eat bland and boring stuff, so from the very early stages start introducing herbs and spices to your meals. We started with things like cinnamon, paprika, cumin, cajun, mild curry powder, basil and coriander. The faster you get your children eating the same stuff as you the better.

7. Avoid kids menus when eating out

Why do kids menus list the same foods wherever you go? Why have we been conditioned to think that this is all kids will eat? My best tip on this? Imagine kids menus don't exist. Instead, order things you can enjoy together off the main menu, or even a starter. If your children love chicken nuggets, chances are they will also love the chicken satay skewers on the starter menu.

8. Offer veggies for starters

This is a great tip Jamie Oliver gave me years ago when I asked him how he got his kids to sustain a healthy relationship with vegetables. He suggested putting salads and some sort of veggies out on the table while you're cooking and your kids are waiting around wanting to graze. This works wonders for my kids and they often walk round eating cucumber, carrots and raw sugar snap peas before dinner.

9. Go screen-free at meal times

This is a difficult one for many parents, I know, but I do feel it’s important to avoid watching screens when eating, especially when offering new foods. Kids will almost go into autopilot when watching screens, and eat autonomously without being aware or having any real connection with the food they are eating. Being screen-free means a child can observe and interact with the smells, textures and flavours of their food.

10. Be consistent

All of the above points only really work when you're consistent in your approach. It’s very easy to fall into unhealthy habits as kids are smart and know how to demand and get what they want. But always remember you are the head chef and you decide what ingredients go in the shopping trolley and what gets put in the oven. There will, of course, be push back at times and definitely some whinging – but don’t forget, it's always coming from a place of love. Your children will thank you for it when they grow into healthy little adults.

I hope you found this helpful. Good luck on your journey.

Much love,


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