Fussy Toddlers and inspiring foodies by Paula Duggan Balance Nutrition

Feeding Fussy Toddlers & Inspiring Little Foodies – Part 1

How I got my kids to not only eat broccoli but actually like broccoli – Fussy toddlers

My tips & tricks for fussy toddlers & kids are a mixture of evidence-based practices and also what I have learned and tried myself as a mum. Obviously, being a Nutritionist I have strong beliefs regarding the importance of nutrition and feeding practices from a young age. I have worked in the area of infant nutrition and therefore learned a lot  regarding early feeding, food preferences, and how as a parent you can positively influence your child’s preferences.  Therefore, before I even became pregnant, I knew what I had to do to get my children eating broccoli.

It could 8-17 times

  • First off, you may need to offer your child the same food 8 times or more before they accept it. Most people probably try a few more times and then declare “he doesn’t like broccoli”. Then they stop trying or even offering the child broccoli. Pretty logical if you don’t know that you should keep trying. I even read before it may take 17 times. Steady on don’t stop reading now if you are thinking, I ain’t got the time for that. I’m not talking about force feeding here, you just put broccoli on his/her plate every time you cook it. The child needs to at least see the food continually for it to become acceptable to them!

Fussy toddler or not – the rule in my house!

  • The rule in my house is “you don’t have to like it but you have to try it”. Every time we have asparagus, it is put on each child’s plate regardless of whether they like it and they have to eat at least 1 bite of asparagus or whatever it is. Everybody gets the same dinner regardless of their preferences. Yes, if I know one likes broccoli, I will give them lots of broccoli and if I know he/she doesn’t like asparagus, I’m not going to waste food and give them 3 spears of asparagus but I will put at least one on everyone’s plate (they all like broccoli – I’ll tell you why/how soon!)
  • My kids are very familiar with this rule, they will sing it off if I start saying it. Admittedly, they need to be a certain age, the youngest now 3 years is only getting this concept. She is the feistiest of the 3 throwing food she didn’t like on the floor. I didn’t make a big deal of this, I use to ignore it a lot of the time or pretend I didn’t see it. The older two didn’t really notice and I didn’t want to make dinner into a negative experience. I knew she would get there eventually as the other two did.

Don’t force feed

  • As I said I don’t force feed them, but I expose them to food they don’t like continuously. Furthermore, I expose them to new foods/vegetables continuously, with the belief they will eventually accept it or become curious about it and maybe even like it. Yes, sometimes I will say you are not getting up until you eat 4 more bites, but this is when I know they like the food, when they haven’t eaten enough and I know they are just getting up because their brother/sister has just finished. I don’t force them to eat food they don’t like (with the exception of 1 bite).

So, how did I get all 3 to like broccoli??

  • Well, they all ate it pureed as babies and then my eldest decided she didn’t like it as a toddler. I kept putting it on her plate anyway as I knew this was the right thing to do according to all the research. However, the breakthrough was when I made a broccoli, feta & tomato salad and someone said the broccoli was lovely. I declared that it was the dressing that made it yummy, she tasted it out of curiosity! She loved the vinaigrette and the taste of the raw broccoli!!  Low and behold after that she decided she liked broccoli. What I learned from this and from other vegetables/new foods thereafter is once a kid has a positive association with a food, that’s it, they decide that they like that food and they will eat it the next time based on the last experience, even if it’s presented differently.
  • For my son, it was the addition of butter that got him liking broccoli, I add a knob of butter to the saucepan, which is a knob between 5 of us, so before you ask, is that healthy!!?? Yes, it is, oil or butter actually increases the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in vegetables like vitamin A & K. What is important is that they eat the broccoli and that they get the benefit of the broccoli, it doesn’t make sense that people worry about a tiny bit of butter and yet will offer their kids chocolate if they eat their dinner!  To be honest, I discovered I prefer broccoli too with a little butter and I’m not even fussy!

It’s also possible they are just normal toddlers as opposed to a fussy toddlers!!

So, it’s possible your child isn’t a fussy eater but a toddler!! Think about it this way, did you like blue cheese, olives or even alcohol the first time you tried them? Probably not is the answer for most people, but we eventually acquire a taste. Also, if I blindfolded you and told you I was going to put a strawberry into your mouth but then I put an olive in, although you may actually like olives because you weren’t expecting that you will probably spit it out. Now think about it from a toddler’s perspective! Perhaps they are expecting the yummy pear you gave them at breakfast but then you go and give them parsnip, its not what they were expecting. Patience and persevere is what is required from here on in!!!!

If you would like to learn more about fussy eaters you can click on my next blog Fussy Toddlers – Part 2 or go to a reliable source for more info, for example HSE

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Elaine Brosnan

    I love reading your blogs esp this one on fussy eaters. Great tips and love your recipes

  2. Brigid flynn

    Really good advice and tips. Definitely going to try the”one bite rule” with my crew as I just got into the habit of not giving them the vegetables they don’t like.

  3. Brigid Flynn

    Really good advice and tips. I am definitely going to try the “one bite” rule in my house as I have just gotten into the habit of just not giving them the fruits/ vegetables they say they don’t like.

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