My 3-year-old Is A Fussy Eater And I Want This To Stop Now, Says Worried Mum

Sarmistha Neogy
·9-min read

If you have a fussy eater at home, you know how stressful it can be to finalise dinners. Refusal to eat, or throwing food around are common ways for them to show discontent. But while many children can be borderline picky eaters and eventually taught to eat healthy, the problem arises when they refuse to budge from their stance. It is time to bring out the big guns and figure out creative fussy eater dinner ideas to get them to explore and enjoy food.

A similar concern was raised by a mum of a 3-year old, who complained that her child “is becoming increasingly a fussy eater” and she wants it to stop it.

She shared how she was forced to send her toddler to bed without dinner because “Well, she didn’t eat a single thing. She put the fork to her mouth a couple of times, extremely grossed out, and didn’t eat.”

She wonders if she was too harsh on the child and asked for suggestions to tackle this problem.

“My 3-Year-old is Becoming Increasingly a Fussy Eater”

fussy eater dinner ideas
fussy eater dinner ideas

Screengrab: Reddit

In her long-drawn post, the Reddit mum wrote, ” My 3yo is becoming increasingly a fussy eater and I want this to stop now. I want her to grow up to love and appreciate food as we do. So I did all the research, read a couple of books and extracted the golden rules: don’t cook something different, eat all together, let the child decide how much they want to eat and treat dessert as something you have after you finish your dinner (take away the punishment/reward idea from it). Great rules, all make sense, I am ready!”

“Then dinner time comes. I make chicken and veggies. The veggies feature a couple she has eaten before and a couple she has not. Chicken with her is hit and miss. I made sure to give her a small portion and announced she could have fruit (which she love) if she ate her dinner. I would have been happy with a quarter of dinner down, to be honest,” the concerned mum added.

But, she found that her child didn’t eat anything except trying the fruit. She repeated her instructions and told her “It was okay to go to bed. So she went to bed!”

“And here I am bawling my eyes out. Feeling like an absolute failure, second-guessing myself. Have I been too harsh?” she shared.

But it seems that she was not alone in this battle with a fussy eater. Many mums shared that they were on the same boat.

Fussy Eaters Are Common, It’s All About Learning To Teach Them About Making Healthy Choices

1. Food appetising when it’s on mummy’s plate!

fussy eater dinner ideas
fussy eater dinner ideas

Sometimes kids get tempted to pick from others’ plate. (Photo courtesy: istockphoto)

Mummy user Strict-environment shared that she has gone through this phase. She had to think of fussy eater dinner ideas as her kids refused to try out new things at dinner.

So she started with lunch, where she would eat a big bowl of salads mixed with peas, bets, hardboiled eggs, cucumbers, and let her toddler sit next to her and pick at her plate.

She wrote, “It seems that since it’s on my plate all the sudden it’s desirable, and since there’s usually something stuck to another because of the dressing, he’s trying all sorts of new things. Today my 2 years old was “fighting” me for spinach leaves and giggling while he folded them into his mouth.”

Another mum user shared a similar same experience. She said, “This is something I do with my 3-year-old and now he loves salad. If it’s on mom or dad’s plate, suddenly it looks good. This kinda became an issue because now he’s only eating stuff on our plates and won’t eat what we make him for breakfast.”

“Mom and dad are too busy to sit down to eat breakfast in the morning, so he doesn’t eat because there’s no plate for him to steal from. However, we took it a step further and let him use all the same silverware, plates, bowls, and cups we do… granted we changed to plastic everything. But now he’s not trying to eat off our plate so much because everything looks the same so this helps.”

Some suggested ways in which a fussy eater can become a convert.

2. Time to re-examine goals!

Mum Tinnydancer1 suggested, “I don’t think you should be so hard on yourself but perhaps re-examine your goals. If you want her to love food and feel safe trying new foods you can’t force it. I have a three-year-old and he eats just about every fruit but just doesn’t like veggies.”

“We get him to try a good variety of stuff but if he doesn’t like it we don’t make him eat it. I figure his tastes will change as he gets older and there’s no point making a battle out of it when he does eat a reasonable variety of food,” she added.

3. Punishing for not eating can backfire!

A Mum user Okayish_Mama1 felt that punishing the child for not eating and sending her to bed hungry will have the opposite effect.

She further wrote, “Making meal times stressful is no good for you or her. I understand how frustrating it is when they don’t eat but her appreciation for food will come. Don’t tell her about the desert. Also when you make the food let her pick her own portions and what she wants on her plate.”

“Give her options of what she wants for supper. Give her two options and let her pick one. She’ll be more likely to eat it if she has some control over what’s made,” she added.

4. “Tastes will change from week to week”

If OP’s daughter doesn’t like chicken, maybe just rotate it out for now and then try again in a few weeks. Don’t mention her not liking it, just serve it as an option like it’s just another food. Don’t want the kid to feel bad for simply not liking the taste or texture of something, or make her double down on her belief that she doesn’t like chicken. She’s 3 and her tastes will change from week to week,” mum user Opiatedreams suggested.

These were interesting practical suggestions. But we understand how stressful it can be to prepare meals for a fussy eater. Which is why we recommend tweaking or changing your approach. For your convenience, here are few ideas to make your child eat healthy.

Fussy Eater Dinner Ideas Won’t Work Unless You Try These Tips!

1. Have food conversations

If your child is a picky eater, try having food conversations. For instance, when you give them eggs, also teach them their importance. “These eggs are not only yummy, but it will make my baby stronger. They are rich in protein and omega-3 both of which can help you become smarter and stronger,” you could try.

When you give them a glass of milk, try telling them “Calcium in this glass will make your bones strong and help you run faster in school.” They will slowly begin to understand the importance of having some healthy food groups. Turn off the TV and let them concentrate only the food and stories around it.

2. Practice patience

fussy eater dinner ideas
fussy eater dinner ideas

There will days when your kid may not be in a mood to eat. It is best not to force him. | Image courtesy: iStock

It goes without saying that when you become parents, you need oodles of patience. So, while it is not easy thinking of fussy eater dinner ideas every time, try and understand your little one. Your child probably has no appetite and genuinely doesn’t feel like eating at that time.

If so, don’t force the kid to eat and analyse why that may be. If you have been giving your child snacks right before dinner that may be why. So chart a more effective meal planner.

3. Don’t allow them to waste food

While you make fussy eater dinner ideas to get your child to eat, there is something equally important. Teaching your child the importance of ‘food.’

Incorporate and practice gratitude before each meal and ask them to recite affirmations before they start. You could also teach them a small prayer so they thank the food that’s in front of them. These simple changes can encourage to mend their ways.

4. Don’t punish

Try not to be too harsh on your child if they so not eat what you have given them. While it is important for them to try out all food groups, punishing them will make them more rebellious.

Instead, remain calm and question their behaviour. If something is bothering them, assure them of your support.

5. Change your menu

Kids love the colours, textures and yes different taste of food (other than what they eat everyday). For instance, if your child does not eat broccoli, make broccoli salad one week and given him broccoli soup the next week. Slowly introduce colour to his palate as well by adding as many vegetables in creative shapes and sizes.

6. Prep meals with leftovers

If you have leftover flatbreads from the previous night, you can make pizzas for your little one. As the topping, try out different vegetables, like carrot, mushroom, zucchinis, baby corn. You will be surprised at how quickly your little one will finish this.

7. Make it appetising

Try making the food appealing to your little one. For instance, if you have meatballs for dinner serve them on toothpicks or ice cream sticks. You can draw a smiley with their ketchup and present it differently each time.

As mums, it is indeed a challenge to think of fussy eater dinner ideas. But always assume that it is not always about making your child eat, but it is also about helping them to bond with food.


Many Faces of Picky Eaters: The Choosy Eater

Is Your Child A Fussy Eater? Genetics Could Be The Reason Why

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