Picky Eaters are children who avoid eating certain types of foods, which leads them to an inadequate and unvaried diet. When this happens, parents are encouraged to observe whether there are any other difficulties, even physical difficulties around chewing and swallowing, or any other sensory issues. If this is the case, an Occupational Therapist, Paediatrician or Psychologist may offer specialised support and guidance to the parents.

Why is my Child a Picky Eater?

Picky eating may happen because of a number of factors, such as: Feeding difficulties; sensitivity to taste, smell or textures; late introduction of particular textures during weaning; increased expectations related to food; increased power struggles between the parents and the child; modelling of parents’ fussy eating habits. 

By becoming aware of what may be leading the child to be fussy around food, adults can tackle the situation better and offer different opportunities with regards to food. By including the child more in the food preparation, including foods they like in the options being offered, listening to the child’s opinion with regards to what they like and the amount of food that they want.

Apart from these strategies, by observing your child’s preferences, you would be in a better position to offer food that will be accepted and to slowly expand into more varied and nutritious options. Thus, if your child likes crunchy food, wet or lumpy food, cold or warm food, etc… We may offer variations of what they like slowly to introduce new nutrients or ingredients, without putting the child off.

Here is a list of 8 perfect foods for fussy eaters:

  1. Fruit smoothies or pancakes are a great source of nutrients for your little picky eater, especially if they refuse to eat fresh fruit. If your child likes liquid meals, smoothies that are blended or left lumpy depending on what the child likes, are a great source. You can introduce mild tastes slowly. Pancakes would be the same thing essentially, but in a solid form. As stated previously – let the child’s preferences guide you. You can then add other superfoods in the blend as you become more successful, like adding peanut (or any other nut) butter, avocado, or vegetables, Greek yoghurt for protein, etc… 
  1. Baked chips- potato, fruit, or any other vegetable. If your child likes crunchy food, especially junk food, you can either buy or prepare baked or fried chips. Trying to transition slowly to more healthy options and even home-made options to ensure that you use less processed oils and additives. Keeping the peel is also a nutritional gain as many peels contain fibre and other nutrients. 
  1. Chicken is very versatile, doesn’t have a lot of texture, and is a good meat option since you can prepare it in different ways to suit your child’s preferences. If your child loves nuggets, you can also opt for homemade ones, you can serve with different batters to try and widen your child’s food repertoire, adding mild spices slowly and in varying degrees to help the child become used to new tastes while still having a ‘safe’ food. Chicken can be served shredded and plain, grilled on skewers, and leading on to adding some plain sauce to dip in.
  1. Pizza, bread pockets, wraps, quesadillas, flatbread, etc… are all types of breads that picky eaters like. Usually, they would prefer plain and not messy options. So, testing things out with sauces or different cheeses is also another way of enjoying this option. 
  1. Raw vegetables are easier to accept than cooked vegetables as their texture is more uniform, and children who enjoy crunchy food with the possibility of dipping them in humus, yoghurt, or wrapping them in ham or thin slices of cheese. 
  1. Muffins and cakes are a fun way to add certain vegetables or protein (eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc…) to your child’s diet as many of them won’t be detected as easily and you can put your mind at rest that the nutrients are being taken in anyway. 
  1. Pasta with hidden vegetables, is another variation of the above approach to have your child take in important nutrients without them being aware of doing so. Ideally a child isn’t tricked into eating foods, and the hidden veggies are still being offered in different ways on the side to help your child become more familiar with them. 
  1. Fish sticks or versions of battered fish strips, cakes or balls are similar to chicken nuggets in texture and many children love eating these foods, with the added benefit of eating fish. 

Apart from this list, there are many other ideas and recipes that may help your child try out more foods similar to what they enjoy eating. The important thing is to keep in mind not to put too much pressure on yourself and the child, and to seek support from the right professionals who may guide you even better in this struggle.  

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.