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Parenting Tip – An End to Fussy Eating

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Do your children eat what you eat?

Did they eat a traditional Christmas dinner with you, or did you have to make them something separate?

After a recent discussion with a friend at a great BBQ, yes our children ate exactly the same as we did, I was amazed to hear that she had been to a Christmas dinner and  her children were the only ones who ate the Christmas meal, the others all have something different, some may say more child friendly!  But are we making problems for ourselves in having to cook different food for adults and children.  Maybe I am old fashioned but my children have always eaten what has been put on the table and it has been the same as we have eaten.

Do you wish you could change your children’s eating habits?
Do you have fussy eaters?
Are you tired of cooking two separate meals?
We have looked around and taken the best tips from the internet just for you:
No. 1 Eat, Reign, Love

Repeat after us: You are in charge. You buy the groceries. You make meals. Still think you can’t stick to your guns when your tot gets food fussy? Start small:


How will children get exposed to new foods if you keep cooking chicken nuggets for them? Scientific studies have shown again and again that children copy their parents’ eating behaviors. If you want your children to eat a wide range of wholesome foods, serve them what you’re eating (and make sure there’s a vegetable on your plate!). It’ll be less stressful for you (one dinner versus two), which, in turn, will boost your childs’ acceptance of the “adult” menu: Studies show that a positive mealtime atmosphere led to greater food consumption in children, while negative vibes did just the opposite.


Does your daughter snatch her favorite chips from the cupboard when she doesn’t like the yummy, garlicky pork chop you’ve put on her plate? First, continue to brush up on your “no” skills. Second, don’t buy crap food. It’s the parents’ job to provide healthy food. It’s the kid’s job to eat or not eat.


Children push boundaries. If you ease up on rules, Junior learns that it’s OK to reject veggies, snack on candy and behave like a banshee at mealtime. And that’s not OK. “You wouldn’t let your child run into the street,” says Cathleen Piazza, Ph.D., a pediatric feeding specialist and researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “Why would you let him eat what he wants and send him on his way to a heart attack [in adulthood]?” Junk food isn’t as immediate a peril as, say, traffic, but you get the gist: Be a parent!

No. 2 Make a Fresh Start

It’s much easier to get children under 2 years to eat collard greens and lima beans. Studies show that the earlier you introduce a food, the more likely a child will accept it and continue to eat it throughout his lifetime. If your child is over 2, don’t worry: Research also shows that the palate of anyone, any age, can be changed via what nutritionists call “habituation” and “flavor training.” For example: Say you start using less salt, per doctor’s orders. In a few weeks, salt-laden soups and frozen meals will likely taste too salty.


Creating an adventurous eater is a lot easier when you serve fresh food, says Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, a 16-year-old nationwide program that teaches students to grow, harvest and prepare their own foods. “Parents and restaurants alike think that you have to play games to get children to eat what’s good for them,” says Waters. “But kids like real food that is simple and ripe.” Let your child experiment with dipping a fresh cherry tomato into pesto sauce or a carrot into vinaigrette “so he can taste things singly and explore flavors one by one,” suggests Waters.


Robin Miller, host of Food Network’s Quick Fix Meals With Robin Miller and mom of two boys, suggests that you present a plate filled with much-loved meatloaf, rice and strawberries, but reserve a quarter of the plate for zucchini and a little (familiar) ranch dressing for dipping. This reduces the intimidation factor and boosts the odds of acceptance.

No. 3 Go on an Adventure

When exposure to a new cuisine is a vibrant, fun-filled experience, your child will have positive memories with that food forever. Escapades your kids will love:


Children cherish the jingling ice-cream truck, unfortunately we don’t have too many of these in Hong Kong, but we do have a wide variety of food stalls and restaurants.  Why not make a lunch date with your child, let them choose where to go, not McDo.  You could always have a progressive lunch, starter in an Italian, main dish in a Chinese restaurant and then dessert in a Mango fruit palace or ice cream parlor, There are so many options here in Hong Kong.  This sort of activity with your children make it fun and can help them be more receptive to new foods.


First, pull out that old globe or world map (or bring one up onscreen). Ask your child to point to a country he’s learning about in school or simply wants to know more about. (With younger kids, this can be a fairly random choice!) A country’s food reflects its geography, economy and cultural traditions. Then plan a monthly visit to a Japanese, Argentine, Korean, Turkish, Italian (or whatever) restaurant.


There are now many markets in Hong Kong and farmers seem to be one of the new trends here.  Go along and visit one and teach your child to ask vendors where the tomatoes were grown and whether pesticides were used. Look at all the different shops in Hong Kong selling food, some of them may seem a bit strange but it is good for children to learn about the different cultures and what they eat.  Have you ever been into a local wet market? This is a world of adventure, live fish flapping, frogs in baskets, live chickens.  It is worth a visit you can learn a lot and children will be fascinated by their connection to the food chain.

No. 4 They’re Hired!

A Canadian study found that children who regularly helped with meal prep preferred healthier foods and ate 10 percent more of their veggies than the kitchen-slackers. Here’s how to put yours to work:


Melissa d’Arabian, host of the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners and author of Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes and Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week, has four daughters ages 5 to 7. In the grocery store, the girls are in charge. “I ask them to go find the best kale to put in smoothies,” says d’Arabian, who teaches them to pick produce for high quality and flavor.


Buy a pair of safety scissors so your child can cut fresh herbs. Use small bowls and whisks to make egg cracking and scrambling easy for little fingers. And don’t forget the child-size apron and chef hat. Kitchen work isn’t just a fun, gooey science experiment. When children help create the meal, they own the meal, boosting odds that they’ll like and eat it, too.


Plant basil, tomatoes and oregano and call it Emma’s (or Liam’s) Garden. Together you’ll dig, till, weed and, finally, harvest for the big Pizza Night. Grow your own tacos with lettuce, cilantro and chili peppers. Or try a dessert garden: Bake a pie or a crumble with just-picked lemons or berries. “When children are engaged from an early age in the process of where their food comes from, their relationship to it is transformed,” says Waters.

Even if you don’t have a garden it is amazing what you can grow in window boxes.

No. 5 Talk Turkey

…and protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals at the dinner table. Teach your child that protein—poultry, fish, eggs, meat—will build her muscles so she can grow bigger and stronger. Carbs—whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas—bestow energy, so she’ll be able to run and play for a longer time. Fats—avocados, nut butters, olive oil, fish—will boost brainpower and make her more alert in preschool tomorrow. Fruits and vegetables help keep her healthy, so she may not get sick as often.

When your child says “I don’t like this salmon,” offer a nutritionally equivalent option—like walnuts or a hard-boiled egg—and tell her that’s OK, but she still needs to eat something that will build muscles and help her pay attention to the teacher in the morning. “If your child isn’t going to eat vegetables that night, give her something she loves, like blueberries,” says Miller. “She’ll still be getting antioxidants and fiber.”

No. 6 No Power Struggles


Cathleen Piazza, Ph.D. suggest that with a little planning, you can defuse potentially explosive (and embarrassing) food meltdowns.


Choice empowers children and allows them to think they are in control. One veggie should be raw carrots or anything you know he’ll eat. “But he has to pick one,” says Piazza. “Otherwise, the child truly is in control.”


Just make sure there is something on the menu they’ll eat. “When my child tastes something and doesn’t like it, I want her to feel her opinion is valued,” says d’Arabian. “After all, I never tell my husband to ‘just shut up and eat it!’”


Hungry children are cranky children. Before heading to your friend’s or your boss’ home for dinner, give your child a quickie snack like cheese and crackers or fruit and yogurt. The blood-sugar spike will do wonders for his mood, and he’ll be more open to tasting unfamiliar fare and less likely to collapse into tears.

No. 7 Rethink Your Go-to Meals

Between your job and the childrens’ activities, sometimes you’re lucky to get mac and cheese on the table. “Most of the families I meet are flying by the seat of their pants at mealtime,” says Katie Boles, R.D., a pediatric dietitian at Wake-Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, NC.

We get it. “Kid food” is an easy dinner default on frantic weeknights. But if you really want to serve something more nutritious and adventurous (and we know you do, since you got this far in this article!), learn a few super-easy, healthy recipes to lean on as your “manic Monday” meal. “Have five or six easy [dishes] in your dinner arsenal that deliver a high level of nutrition and flavor,” says Tyler Florence, the Food Network chef, restaurateur, baby-food mogul, cookbook author and father of three.

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