How to curb a child's fussy eating and avoid the tantrums at dinner time

Fussy child with veggies
Almost half the UK population* thinks their child is a fussy eater, so we asked food writer Alex Hollywood to share her tips on getting little ones to eat better so they can have a healthy, balanced diet.
Gateway foods are those that take children just outside their comfort zone. These ingredients should be introduced in meals the whole family can enjoy. Key gateway foods to try include:
1. Mackerel
An oily fish which is a source of omega 3. It also has a slightly salty flavour.
2. Mushrooms
These have an interesting texture, so they’re great for encouraging children to try food regardless of its consistency.
3. Kiwi fruit
Perfect for kids who are put off by strange coloured foods. The flavour of kiwi is quite sweet, and the addition of the seeds provides a different texture.
4. Cottage cheese
Being slightly sour, this is a great ingredient to use in a variety of dishes. It’s texture, colour and consistency are ideal for helping children get used to different foods.
5. Broccoli
Despite having a slightly bitter flavour, broccoli is very versatile and can be used in lots of recipes and eaten either raw or cooked.

Involve them in the decision making

Taking children shopping for food can also help them get to know the foods you’re buying, what they’re called and what they look like. This is really important in the vegetable aisle as some fruit and veg can look very strange to a child.

Get the kids cooking

Man cooking with daughter

40% of children are more likely to try new foods in their own home and the best way to do this is to get them involved with creating the meals, from the preparation to mixing. It encourages them to try new flavours and foods.

Create traditional meals with unusual ingredients

Girl pushing away plate of pasta

If the flavour or texture of a vegetable puts your child off, try incorporating it in a family favourite meal. That way they are trying new things in a comfortable environment.

Present food in a fun way

Consider how food looks on the plate. If it looks tasty and appealing – such as in theshape of a smiley face – your child is more likely to try it. Smoothies are a great way to get kids to try new flavours and different fruits and vegetables.
Children can also help in the preparation stage to understand what the fruits look like and familiarise themselves with their texture before these foods go into the blender.

Little and often

Just a spoonful of a new veg on the side of the plate or letting kids try a taste of what you are eating – if it is different – is a great way to encourage them to explore without making every meal a battleground.
New research from Sainsbury’s Active Kids shows that the best age to get kids trying new foods is between five and six. They’ve launched The TasteBuddies campaign to encourage children across the UK to try a wider variety of foods.

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