Do you have a fussy eater?

Do you consider your child to be a fussy eater? A survey of 2,000 parents of children aged four to 16 found three in five consider their child a ‘fussy eater’.

The research by the UK’s leading meal kit company, HelloFresh UK, revealed that nearly one in two parents feel obliged to cook more than one different meal each night to make sure everyone around the table will eat their dinner.


Peanut butter
Pork mince
Beef mince
Sandwich meat such as ham

Fussy or a choice?

Is it ‘fussy’ not to like these things? How many of the things on this list do you NOT eat yourself? There are three items on here I don’t eat myself, including Marmite. Does not eating Marmite make a person fussy?

I have one child who will eat most things and three who are much more selective about what they like. They were all weaned in exactly the same way and fed the same foods as babies.

They all went through a ‘fussy’ toddler stage and for one that carried on a number of years, causing iron deficiency anaemia. There are still things he won’t eat now, but I don’t consider him a particularly fussy eater anymore, just more selective about what he does and doesn’t like.

That’s not to say it isn’t frustrating. Of course I’d love to be able to cook one meal that all six of us would eat without variations. I’m sure when they are all a bit older that will be the case.

What the research says

The research conducted by One Poll, found that fussy children will refuse to eat two meals a week, while two more are thrown away practically untouched. Sixty per cent long for the day when they can cook one meal which everyone in the family is happy to eat. Forty five per cent feel they spend more time in the kitchen than needed trying to appease everyone with the meals they want.

Despite these efforts, the average parent will have their child outright refuse to eat two of the meals they prepare each week, and two meals will only be picked at before being thrown away.

A third think their child would turn their nose up at anything spicy, while one in four believe their child is resistant to anything on their plate which is green.

One in six kids refuse to eat bread unless the crusts have been cut off, and 16 per cent demand their food is separated on the plate so each element doesn’t touch. We had this with one of the children for a long time, sectioned plates fixed the problem easily.

Three in 10 children will send a meal back to their parent if it looks a bit burnt.

Any of these familiar in your home?

How do you manage it?

I’ve used a whole range of techniques over the years.

I never force the children to eat something they don’t like. I do like them to try something before they announce they don’t like it though. It doesn’t mean they will never like it, just that they don’t at the moment.

I’ve found segmented plates a huge asset in coping with really fussy eating. If you’ve not tried one I highly recommend giving them a go.

Reward charts may help. We’ve found that has helped on and off with one of the children.

Don’t assume anything! Don’t assume just because you have a ‘fussy’ eater that they won’t like spicy food for example. Our most challenging child (when it comes to food) loves curry and chilli!

When you have a breakthrough take a photo of them eating whatever it is – show it to them next time they tell you they don’t like it!

Try cooking things in different ways. For some children it is the texture of the food they don’t like. If they turn down a poached egg, try scrambled for example.

Try cooking with your children. Sometimes, involving them in the preparation can help with what they actually eat. You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss food in general.

Distraction can be great. The most important thing is that they eat. If they are having a mouthful in-between colouring then so be it. Try not to get too hung up on how they should be eating and be happy they are actually eating.

Keep it low key and don’t make a fuss. If you are out and about, or staying with friends and family eating patterns can be more problematic. If you need to take the children away from the fuss to get food into them, then do it, try not to worry about what other’s think.


  1. Not too bad at the moment – getting to the stage where everything is ” no ” – your tips are fab

  2. I think getting children involved in meal preparation helps a lot. This weekend we made vegan sushi rolls with my 4 year-old granddaughter. We helped her pat the rice onto the seaweed sheets, then left her to assemble her own rolls, and finally helped her roll them up tightly. She had a choice of things to put in her rolls (fried tofu strips, avocado, cucumber, fried red peppers, mushrooms, sesame seeds, crispy fried onions, spring onions and mango). She used all the ingredients except the spring onions & avocado, and ate the rolls without soy sauce or wasabi but with small bits of pink ginger. It definitely took longer to make the rolls than it does without her help, but she enjoyed both the making and the eating.

  3. A really interesting article. My mother cooked one meal for all of us and I remember being made to sit at the table and eat what was put in front of me. It must have been hard for her to do that but we were not fussy and wasteful like many children are today. However, that approach brought a different set of food problems later on so is not one I ever used myself.
    Getting children to help with the shopping and cooking is very helpful.

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