21 ways to outsmart a fussy eater

funny baby girl eating food on kitchen

About a month after she started on solids, my little girl became the pickiest of fussy eaters. From that time up until the age of almost 2, having such a fussy eater toddler in a house of foodies has been one of the most frustrating and mind boggling things I have had to deal with in motherhood leaving me often to be found in a cupboard screaming and beating myself over the head with a stick.

I grew up in a household where food was the centre of everything. Food on offer all the time. And I loved it. So there was no way I was simply going to shrug off this picky eating business. No way Jose. Yes every trick in the book has gone down in order to get this pickiest of picky hair-tearing eaters to eat and a lot has been learnt along the way. Here are my top 21 fussy eater toddler tips for surviving the picky eater’s club, learnt at my own now grey haired expense…

fussy eater baby eating in highchair

1. Pancakes

Oh pancakes how I love thee so! Pancakes have moved from being a special treat to a regular morning fixture. You can get a picky eater to pretty much eat anything in a pancake – not just fruit but you can sneak some veggies in there with Carrot and Apple Pancakes or Spinach and Banana Pancakes – who would have thought it! Just make sure you blend up whatever you are sneaking in good and proper (see no.6 ) to make sure your plan doesn’t get foiled! You can also use them as a savoury lunch option.

2. Waffles

As tempting and versatile as pancakes, the major plus of these is you can turn your leftover mix from the pancakes (see above) into waffles on day 2. Hazaar! I particularly love me a good old Pumpkin Waffle mix I do.

3. Sweet treats

OK so we all know picky eaters love sweet treats but you can get a little bit creative with sneaky variations here. Think about throwing in some parsnip in there with a Carrot and Parsnip Muffin mix; or sneaking some avocado in them with a Chocolate Avocado pudding which is simply amazeballs. A little bit of experimenting is needed on this front but it’s worth it for the wins! Instead of making cake with the traditional flour think about making a Flourless Almond & Apple Cake which is highly nutritious being mainly made up of almonds and eggs. Another winner are these Sweet Potato Brownies.

4. Porridge

Porridge could be oh so boring but if your little one is icky about the texture of some fruits e.g. mangos, strawberries etc. whack them in a porridge instead! The same goes for bananas, apples and best of all on the veggie front – carrots! If you don’t believe me just check out this recipe for Carrot Cake Porridge.

5. Omelettes and quiches 

Somehow in many cases, omelettes and quiches seem to pass the fussy eater test…I’m guessing this is closely linked to No. 6. Anyhow, these two are therefore great ways of sneaking in all manner of items. I have got away with sneaking in avocado and spinach into omelettes and broccoli, spinach and butternut squash in quiches so definitely worth a shot!

6. Texture

Toddlers especially can be totally weirded out by certain textures. Have a play around with different textures – my little one HATES the texture of scrambled egg but likes the smoothness of hard boiled egg (who would have thought!). This is also a big reason why they shun many fruit and veggies at this stage – it being a developmental thing – so don’t sweat the small stuff. Chances are they will eat more than just peas at some stage in their life.

7. The blender

Yes, the blender is your best friend when entertaining a member of the picky eaters club. The rule is: blend it, then mix it in. It’s amazing how much fruit and veg you can blend up and sneak into things. My little one is a total weirdo about anything hard or lumpy so I give any mince a quick hand blend before serving to her, for example.

8. Tell a “white” lie

This is a bit naughty, but when times are REALLY tough on the eating front, sometimes it’s just easier to lie and say that everything is chicken until they realise how much they actually like everything else!

9. Shapes

When we went through a really bad period when even sandwiches were out of favour (WTF!!!?) then cookie cutters were my go to. Yup, I was the saddo mummy standing in the kitchen cutting up the sandwiches into heart and star shapes and you know what, it bloody worked!

10. No strong flavours

OK this might be a bit dull for you when you’re making family meals but seriously, what tastes good to you does NOT taste good to them. This might sound obvious but even the slightly fishiest of fish, the slightly too spicy meals… No, just no.

11. Don’t react or be creative in your reaction

Depending on my mood either two of these works a dream. If fussy pants is being a fuss pot I find the best thing is just to casually say “OK that’s fine” and more often than not they get on with eating it. Other times if they are picking on a certain element of the food e.g. saying “No chicken” do something random and make up a crazy song about chicken. You sound insane but it totally diffuses the situation and usually gets them eating.

12. Eat together as much as you can & let them eat off your plate 

Sitting down altogether for meals can be hard in today’s modern age but if you can only get one meal together whatever that be, do it.

13. Change up the setting

Sometimes the picky eating seems to be totally alleviated by a total change in scenery. Need to diffuse a picky eating situation quickly? Make it into a picnic, have it by the window, change it up…

14. Get them to make their own food

This I found massively helpful, especially when the little one started disliking the go-to lunchtime meals. I would stand her up on a little stool and get her to help make her own omelette, for example – they seem to really pride in eating what they have helped make. For some inspiration on food toddlers can make check out what Netmums says about it here.

15. Offer dessert whatever

The whole power struggle over dessert just doesn’t work and belongs in the dark ages as far as I’m concerned. I found that offering dessert no matter what’s been eaten at main often leads to more of the main being eaten afterwards. Although they can be serious picky eaters, confusingly toddlers often tend not to  discriminate when it comes to what food is eaten with what and when, unlike us adults.

16. Ready mades

If it’s all just blowing your mind, don’t feel bad about giving ready made toddler/kiddy meals. There was a time when the picky eating was so bad I was just so over it that I just rolled out the ready mades and fish fingers. She loved the taste and texture, ate properly, I was not fretting, everybody was happy and the bad times passed.

17. Make it cheesy 

I know some people worry about slathering cheese all over their kids foods but if you need a magic trick to get them eating the good stuff that’s underneath it, so long as it’s really packed with good stuff then I say go for it! It’s a good source of calcium after all. You could do much worse.

18. Make it creamy 

What’s not to love about a creamy sauce? If you feel a picky eating episode coming on, stir in some milk, yogurt or cheese for a better chance of it being chowed.

19. Get the dollies/teddies involved 

It’s amazing how a picky eater sees their dollies and teddies “eating” what they were not too keen on and is suddenly game too.

20. ‘Hide’ things in what they like

This is a case of mind over matter. Take sweet potato or butternut squash as an example. Put it obviously on a plate and uh oh…not happening. OR mash a little of it up with rice which my daughter shoves fistfuls of into her mouth and BINGO!

21. Go to the source 

This is probably my favourite tip as it is genuinely a lot of fun. As I mentioned before, my fussy face has been weird about many fruits, including strawberries (WTF!!?) for the longest time. However the other day we took her strawberry picking and she was literally shoving strawberry after strawberry in her gob that day and thereafter. I plan to take her to the picking farm for every new fruit and veg that comes into season so we can sprinkle a little more of that magic.

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  1. We’ve done most of these- especially the cheese and creamy sauces. Our tot often has a yoghurt break in the middle of his meal and then goes back to eating his main meal.

  2. Thank you soo much for writing this! Ihave been struggling to get my son to eat anything apart from potatos/pasta/bread for ages. He loves brown, carby type foods. I can get him to eat a bit of fruit but he will not touch any veg. It’s so frustrating because he used to be so good. I am going to try all of these things and see if Ican sneak some veggies in to his belly xx #TWinklyTuesday

    • Good luck love it is exhausting and hair tearing but it does definitely get better once they come into their own a bit more. In the meantime I really hope some of these help having been there and done that over and over and over etc x

  3. I’m trying to get my children to be a bit more adventurous in their tastes and encouraging them to make healthier choices at the moment. It can seem like an uphill battle at times. I will have to put your tips to the test #TwinklyTuesday xx

    • It definitely gets better. We have turned a bit of a corner since she hit 2 and can express herself better. I think a lot of it is their way of controlling their world and expressing themselves before they can talk. Good luck! x

  4. What a helpful, post, Rod! I linked a post that is on the exact same subject. Too funny!

    I make homemade pancakes for my daughter, and she likes to eat them frozen for breakfast! (The point was to freeze ahead and warm them up!) Either way, they’re cooked and she’s eating something healthy. Lol! #wineandboobs

    • Glad you found my post helpful Katie. I can’t say Rod can take credit for it though haha. Frozen pancakes for breakfast – our kids like the strangest of things but whatever’s clever eh? Thanks for popping over from #wineandboobs

  5. Great post. All so true. Blender, juicer, smoothies all fab. Making it fun means they eat without noticing as does giving them food like a salad or fruit when they are watching something. #wineandboobs

  6. Some great ideas for the little ones. It’s great when they are really little and will eat everything but certainly gets more difficult over time. #wineandboobs

  7. Some excellent tips. Some I have tried and others not so thanks. I have kind of given up on worrying about it now. He eats when he is hungry and is healthy and growing. #wineandboobs

  8. Great tips. Luckily my lot are good eaters, but harvesting their own food definitely helps. We have a small vegetable patch and some fruit trees, which is really great for encouraging them to heat healthily without them noticing it.

      • I know and I really appreciate it. When I see my niece only eating Cheese Strings and plain pasta it really hits home that my two (number 3 is only 10 months, so we’ve yet to see how good an eater he’ll really be) are good. They eat all fruits, quite a few veg, LOVE cherry tomatoes, rice and pasta,… Fingers crossed the little guy will follow suit.

  9. I love these! haha! I am completely guilty of the very last one for sure! Definitely going to try the pancake thing.. so glad I found this article!

  10. Agree with lots of those points. Especially the cheesy one! If all else fails, add cheese. It usually works :). Great idea to add veges to sweet baking things too. I might have to try out that sneaky trick! #wineandboobs

  11. As you know, we have a fussy eater too. We have tried most of these but as he has got older, he just refuses to eat most things.

    I’m still convinced it has to do with not introducing the baby led feeding experience our other little one had.

    I guess the best part of it all is that while we struggle to get him to eat most foods, he doesn’t eat sweets nor drink anything other than milk and water.

    We can’t have it all.


    • It’s weird because I have heard that baby led weaning can cause fussiness later on too! Who knows. We did both and sometimes I think it’s just a control thing. All I know is that one day we all eat fine so there will…at some stage…be light at the tunnel! Thanks for stopping over from #wineandboobs

  12. Love these tips! We go through stages with Charlie. I always put it down to either timing (he eats all his dinner at 4pm but cracks it big time at 5pm, so dinner is at 4pm!) or teething (he won’t eat much except yoghurt). I was hugely fussy so I’m expecting it’ll be payback time as he heads into toddlerhood… will definitely have to use some of your tips 🙂 Thanks for hosting #wineandboobs

  13. These are some fab tips! my daughter is 7 and she is still a fussy eater! I will most certainly be trying out some of these ideas. The creamy one works….allready I know that!

    Angela xx

      • She had her tastes and then something suddenly changed a year or so ago and she became incredibly fussy. I guess that happens sometimes. Every child is different though and so I’m re-discovering what my daughter likes lol but she is at the age where we tell her if you don’t eat what’s on the plate you”ll be hungry! The same thing my Mother said to me lol!

  14. BRILLIANT!! I love these tips 🙂 My twins are ‘sometime’ fussy eaters — it makes life quite difficult as one day they eat well and will try new stuff, the next, they don’t even want their favourite foods… I always put it down to teething. I blame EVERYTHING on teeth!! 😉

    Weirdly, mine DO like strong tastes; they love olives, blue cheese, spicy pickles, salami, prosciutto… it’s so odd!! But great too, that they’ll try — and eat — things that you wouldn’t expect a two year old to like! 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday — hope to see you again next week! x

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

    • Teeth, teeth oh the teeth you are so right they are the bain of every parents life, especially when it comes to picky eating. I basically assume my little one is teething all the time. Wow you have some fine food lovers is the making there! Thanks for hosting as always x

  15. Great ideas here!

    I don’t have a really bad picky eater but we get lots of times when she won’t even pick up her fork.

    Moving location definitely helps! And I really need to give the vegetable sweet treats a go, she’ll eat anything that I call cake or chocolate!

    Thanks for co-hosting #wineandboobs this week!

  16. Great tips, Baby is a picky eater so I will be trying some of them with her. Thanks for linking up to #TheList x

  17. […] 3. Food glorious food. Probably as a result of them having a better handle on their world, at least in our case, food is no longer an anxiety inducing protest weapon to run and flee from but now a rather glorious foodie joy! Oh thank you…for we have finally graduated from the picky eaters club (more on that here)! […]

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