Fussy eating advice

Things NOT to say to your fussy eater at the table

The first step to turning your child into a happy, healthy, unfussy eater is to remove all pressure on your child to eat anything. Ever! (You can find out why here.) Now you may think you’ve already done that … but have you really?! Perhaps you don’t directly tell your child to eat anything (“Have some of your peas please!”) but there are so many other indirect things you can say that put pressure on them to eat!

Look at the list of sentences below. Each one might seem too subtle to matter. Each one might be said in a light, chirpy voice. But your child will see straight through them! Scatter these type of sentences through a mealtime and you may as well be screaming “EAT IT, EAT IT, EAT IT!” 

How many of these do you say at mealtimes?! 

#1 Telling them what’s on their plate

*Today, you’ve got pasta with tomato sauce, garlic bread, sweetcorn and cucumber.

*Mummy’s got her fish and you’ve got your fish.

*You’ve got broccoli just like daddy.

#2 Asking them to try something

*Just try it – you don’t have to eat it.

*How about a tiny little bite?

*How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?

#3 Telling them it’s delicious

*It’s yummy.

*The potatoes are so nice and crispy.

*You’ve got lovely green beans.

#4 Reminding them to eat

*Don’t forget your sweetcorn.

*You haven’t touched your chicken yet.

*You can’t just eat your Yorkshire pudding.

#5 Telling them how to eat

*Why don’t you dip a carrot stick in the hummus?

*Cauliflower’s good for stabbing with your fork.

*You can use your hands to eat the sausage if you like.

#6 Telling them something is the same as something else

*It’s like the lasagne you had at nanny’s house.

*You have this stew at nursery.

*It’s exactly the same bread you had last week.

#7 Joking around to try and trick them into eating

*Daddy will steal your peas if you don’t eat them!

*Where’s it gone? You didn’t eat it did you? I don’t believe you!

#8 Suggesting food combinations

*The potatoes are nice with the cheese sauce.

*It’s tastes really good if you dip a chip in the egg yolk.

#9 Repeatedly offering food from dishes on the table

*Would you like some of these carrots?

*Are you sure you don’t want more chicken?

*How about a parsnip?

#10 Praising them for eating

*Well done!

*Good boy/girl eating your meat!

*You’ve done really well.

#11 Telling them something is healthy

*Broccoli makes you big and strong.

*Carrots help you see in the dark.

*Fish is good for your brain.

#12 Telling them they like something

*You like beans.

*I thought you liked scrambled egg.

*Do you like it?

#13 Telling them they don’t like something (in the hope they’ll prove you wrong!)

*But you don’t like cheese.

*I didn’t think you liked courgette!

#14 Reminding them they asked for it

*You chose sausages.

*You said you wanted ham on your pizza.

#15 Offering to help them eat

*Would you like me to cut up your pie for you?

*Shall I cut the brown bits off?

*Do you want mummy to blow on it?

#16 Telling them to go faster

*Come on, hurry up.

*You’re so slow.

*I’ll give you 5 more minutes.

#17 Talking about hunger

*Are you sure your tummy’s full enough?

*Aren’t you hungry?

*You said you were really hungry.

#18 Talking about what food looks like

*What colour is sweetcorn?

*The toast is in triangles, isn’t it!

#19 Telling them to concentrate on eating

*Don’t just sit there daydreaming.

*Your fork’s for eating, not waving around!

*Sit up nicely and pull your plate nearer you.

#20 Comparing their eating with a sibling’s

*Look, baby Alex has eaten all his raspberries.

*Your sister’s enjoying her vegetables.

Remember, the way forward is to serve the food and say nothing more about it. DISH UP, SHUT UP! And talk about other stuff!

Of course it can be tricky to make chit-chat about other stuff with a young child for a whole mealtime. Take a look at my new e-booklet How to Get Your Little Blighter to Come to the Table and Stay there! for clear advice on how to make the table a positive, engaging place for your child.