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Just Eat Your Dinner

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Just Eat Your Dinner

Meal times with little ones can be tricky.

From the “I’m not hungry” to the “I don’t like this” to five minutes after dinner has gone in the bin “Mum, I’m hungry, can I have a snack” it’s no wonder this time of night turns into a regular battle of “just eat your dinner!!” through gritted teeth or a threat of “you’re not leaving the table until you eat 4 more peas” type scenario.

So this week, we put the word out to our parent contributors to find out how they deal will food aversions or fussy eaters in their house, and how they encourage their kids to eat healthy.

Nicole from Tales from Mammaville
First-time Mum, Writer, Journalist and Blogger shared how she started her little one out with healthy foods from a young age

I wouldn’t say I have an extremely fussy eater (though there are phases and certain days that are difficult, and include a lot of cajoling and pleading to eat).

However, on the whole, my toddler eats quite healthy and I think that’s because of habits we, as parents, inculcated in him from the start. We didn’t introduce him to juices and chocolates and the like till he was over two.

Whenever he asked for a snack, I would offer him healthier options like fruits, veggie sticks or boiled chickpeas. Crackers (with cheese or hummous) are healthier ‘biscuits’ than chocolate and sugar-filled ones. 

I understand every child isn’t the same, but starting toddlers on the right path from the beginning paves the way to healthier eating choices even as children.

Stephanie from Once Upon Your Prime
Took us back to Psych 101 with her quirky take on how to encourage healthy eating

Freud Who?: Remember Psych 101, Pavlov’s dog, and classical conditioning?

Every time your child eats a chocolate chip cookie or ice-cream, ring a bell. The child will soon associate bells with pleasurable taste sensations.

But after a while (when the child’s guard is down!) ring a bell as he eats oatmeal. Then salmon. And why not go for brussel sprouts? “Ring, ring!”  

Disclaimer: Future Avon Ladies, playing Ding Dong Ditch, or reading Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” may prove traumatizing for him later in life.

Victoria from Lylia Rose
Professional lifestyle blogger shared how she manages two very different palette’s in her family:

My daughter has always eaten really well and will always try something even if she doesn’t like it, so it was a huge shock when my son started refusing healthy food and often a whole meal!

We are a healthy family who eat a lot of veg so I just persevere and serve him what everyone else is eating. I find if I don’t make a fuss or try to force him he will sometimes eventually try the food.

He also changes his mind daily about what he likes – a typical part of the terrible twos!

Sometimes we can trick him. For example, he loves pasta and will eat all the pasta but leave any veg. So instead we may serve him pasta made from vegetables instead (which is thankfully becoming more widely

Or we’ll purée all the veg to make the pasta sauce instead of chopping it up.

Lastly, a few strategies from the fussy eaters section of the Oh Beehave! website:

Same Foods, Same Time
This is one of the simplest strategies you can use to encourage your child to eat their meals. Simply, eat the same foods as your child (or should we say, serve up to your child the same foods you eat), and eat at the same time as your child eats.

Children are much more likely to eat their meals when they don’t perceive their meal as “different” or “special” when compared to everyone else’s (e.g. like a special meal from a kid’s menu).

Pick the Colours
When preparing food (or picking out fruit and veg at the shops), engage your child in helping you pick out the “colours” of healthy foods (rather than focusing on the name of the fruit or vegetable).
Start a competition with them to see how many colours you can eat!

Focusing on the qualities of the food, rather than the type of food itself may help motivate your child to want to try it.

If your child is particularly fussy with their food preferences (provided there isn’t a medical reason) there are things you can do to help encourage them to try different foods.

One way is to ask your child to help you prepare meals (they can help with things like, setting the table, getting the plates, pouring a drink of water, choosing whether to sit inside or outside to eat etc.).

Give them positive reinforcement for helping, for example:

“Thank you for helping me prepare dinner”

and let them know you are looking forward to eating with them

“I can’t wait for us to sit down and eat this delicious dinner together!”

When children are part of the process of preparing the meal, they are much more likely to eat it, and they start to develop an appreciation for the effort that goes into preparing the meal for the family.

Until next time, we would love to hear your tips on how you deal with fussy eaters and how you encourage your children to eat healthy.

Let us know in the comments below (if you have a website, feel free to include the link) 😊

If you have a topic you would like us to include, a tip you want to share, or you would like to feature as a contributor on “Who’s The Expert” get in touch (let us know if you would like to receive email alerts!) or join our facebook group!

Looking for more strategies?


Download our App Parenting Therapy in the iTunes App Store to access the 30 best parenting strategies

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Victoria-Lylia Rose

Thanks for featuring me 🙂
Preparation is a great tip. My daughter loves helping to prepare the food and is always so excited to eat it as she made it!

Thank you for featuring me. Some great tips and advice in this piece?Never thought of using Pavlov’s conditioning trick here☺

My daughter has always been a fantastic eater, but when my son was about two, the pickiness began. And I gave in! After about six months of catering to this eater I finally said enough is enough! With a little work, he now eats whatever we do and I am done making separate meals for members of our family.


We definitely have a fussy eater at our house. I’ll have to try some of these suggestions and see if it helps!


I am beyond blessed with my boys. They will eat just about anything and usually don’t fuss about new things. The only time I have struggled with getting them to eat is if they see someone else make a face or say that they don’t like something. So we care very careful how we talk about new and interesting foods.

Melissa Blake

I don’t remember being a very picky eater when I was little, but my parents definitely did encourage healthy eating! 🙂

Shann Eva

Such great ideas! My oldest has always been fussy, but my twins used to be really good. Now, they’ve become a little bit of a problem too. We always make them try at least one bite, then if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. We also all eat the same meal.


I was a picky eater growing up but suddenly found myself loving all the foods I once hated. As a food blogger, my biggest fear is that my children turn into picky eaters that won’t appreciate the spectrum of food that I make them. I am so grateful that I found these tips so I know how to tackle those issues head-on. I’ll definitely make sure to introduce them to the foods we love early on so they love them too!

Raewyn Sangari

These are such great tips! My daughter is great at eating healthy foods, but we are working on eating at mealtime instead of snacking throughout the day! We don’t really have a food schedule right now, and I think that leaves her not as full as she could be at bedtime.

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