What Do You Feed a Fussy Child?

Extreme fussy 2 year old and getting worse every week.

What do your kids eat?!?!

Update: Thank you for everyone’s ideas. We are definitely push over parents but now that I think about it we were both fussy eaters as children so I wonder if it’s a DNA thing.


  • +47

    My kids eat nothing. Mainly cos I don't have any.

    • Same! Seemed the best solution for OP's problem. ;)

    • +4

      Smart choice!

      • +1

        Starve them.

        • +41

          Agreed, when given the choice between veggies or starvation, they will choose veggies. Works on my kid. There's no such thing as a fussy eater, only weak parents.

          • +3

            @supersabroso: Exactly.
            I'm surprised not many understood that
            Or maybe I'm not,as the average OzBer just neg on impulse

        • +1

          Coming from another parent I tend to agree that it's more to do with the parents than anything else. However, that's easier said than done.

          We've threatened no food when they don't eat things, but this can lead to more than an hour stand-off, by that time it's blown way past their routine for shower/bath and bedtime wind-down. Sometimes it works faster than other days, sometimes you're over the arguing and you just give in.

          The comments about ice cream, talk about being snobby. I agree that treats should be occassional but sometimes you just need that peace and quiet and there's nothing wrong in that.

          Both my wife and I work 9-5 jobs, so the bedtime routine is whirlwind enough, let alone having a stand-off with the kids not eating their dinner.

          • -1

            @sghetti: And sometime the kids just goes to bed hungry yet again after refusing to eat. There are children out there that just will not eat no matter what you do. And starvation is not a long term solution.

    • +3

      That's strange, I only eat free-range kids.

  • +3

    Hide the veg in food they like.

    • -2

      Honestly doesn’t like anything but Ice cream

      • +1

        Give her all the ice cream in the world! (may not work if she's Homer Simpson reincarnated).


      • +5

        Home made spinach and veg ice Cream lol

      • +8

        Easy, no ice cream

      • +20

        Sorry, but how does a 2yr old know what ice cream tastes like? I think that is your problem right there.

        • +1

          She saw other kids eating it and asked for it. Then she was addicted.

          • +16

            @Jumpup: Don't feel guilty when other parents try to shame you. Giving your 2 year old ice cream occasionally is fine.

            We refrained from giving our oldest son ice cream / lollies and the like until he was 4. However our youngest sees his older brother eat those things (still very occasionally) and wants them.

            Both of our sons were picky eaters around that age. We resorted to home made chicken nuggets with pureed vegies mixed with almond meal just to get him to eat something half decent.

            Lasagne also works. You can pack a lot of veggie into lasagne and the kids are none the wiser

            • -1

              @malich: yeah, guilt obviously, first mistake was to give in when she asked for ice-cream. It doesn't take long to get to the latest iphone at 10th birthday or moving out with boyfriend at 17.

              • +1

                @lgacb08: Get off your high horse. Just because they have given the child some icecream doesn't mean they will rollover to every demand.

    • +2

      Tell them the vegies are special and only for adults. They'll beg for it and gobble it down!

  • +2


    • -2

      Doesn’t even like nuggets

      • +2

        That's pretty much all mine eat… and they are fussy about which ones too!

        • Which ones should I be buying?

          • @Jumpup: My fussiest one is now eating a variety, but any Steggles r her favourite (seem to be better than Ingham ones too): https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/productdetails/508730/ste...

            U can buy cooked ones from the deli too as a test… otherwise Maccas, Reds, Brodies, KFC, HJs (the toy on some of the meals is an added bonus for a bit of bribery if it works). One of mine prefers Maccas, the other HJs… they both rarely complain about Red Rooster / KFC / Brodies…

      • +1

        What kind of kid doesn't like nuggets?

  • +159

    Give them what you eat and if they don't like it they go with out. When they are hungry they will eat it. Yes there will be tears and tantrums don't give in. Worked for my kids when they were that age they now (12,10,9) eat just about anything.

    • +2

      If she goes to bed hungry she wakes up at 2am and keeps us up. We have to go to work at 7am :(.

      • +132

        Yep been there but short term pain = long term gain

        • +3

          Yep… Send them back to bed and tell them to be quiet…. If they doesn't work, start taking away pillows, and toys… Until eventually they have anything left

          In the morning, breakfast is the dinner the night before… Repeat until they break

          Start on the Friday though so you're not going to work tired

          • +3

            @itshammer: It depends how old your kid is, but at 2 years old you're going to punish a person (removing things like pillows and toys is punishment) because they're not eating what you want them to eat? Just like adults, kids have the desire to make their own choices too - but they don't have the ability to forecast like we do.

            Imagine someone else choosing (for example) dinner every night for you, and you don't get a really say as to what it is. How frustrating would that be? Imagine if, instead of that person working with you, to make dinner an enjoyable experience, would instead start punishing you for not eating what they want you to eat?

            It sounds pretty insane, but imagine treating your kid like how you'd treat someone else important in your life, your partner, your parents etc. Imagine you punished your partner because they didn't eat what you decided to cook for them.

            "Repeat until they break" makes me pretty sad, what kind of parent wants to "break" their kid? Kids are supposed to be supported, taught, reasoned with and encouraged by their parents. Instead, because they're not eating the food you choose, you prepare, when you want, in the quantity that you decide, you're going to "break" them?

            We work with our kids. Some days they eat the whole plate, other days not much at all. Am I disappointed or upset? No. It's the same as when I don't feel like eating something - but I have the control that they do not. Our kids choose what they want to eat every night (i.e. we have 5 dinners for the week, you can choose which we prepare for the night), they help cook, they serve their own amount, they're not required to finish their plate etc.

            If you want some further research, the Gentle Eating book is a pretty good resource (to start!).

            • +6

              @ojame: Biggest load of crock I've heard.

              They're bloody kids, of course they don't get a choice. They either eat what they're given or starve.

              • @Sad Dino: I'm absolutely always open to learn, and change my view and technique. What about being a kid removes the chance to have a choice in something, for example what to eat?

                • +1

                  @ojame: because kids doesn't understand the limit, consequence and perspective. It's very easy to give them ice-cream until you realising their first trip to the dentist is before the 3rd birthday.

                  • @lgacb08: Yeah, absolutely agreed. However, that's not what my original comment was saying - I didn't say 'let kids choose to eat whatever they want', I was talking about having 5 meals (or some options, at least) and letting your kids choose to eat one of those meals for dinner that night. There's a drastic difference between those approaches.

                    Dan Dino said kids 'don't get a choice' and I'm not entirely sure why you couldn't give kids a few options of what they wanted to eat for dinner, which is why I'm asking what about being a kid removes their chance for choice?

      • +102

        That's called parenting…

        It's not meant to be convenient

      • +36

        Suck it up buddy. The advice above is exactly what Needs to be done. Go to bed earlier then and put your kid back to bed. Be firm. Raise your voice and make sure they know YOU are the boss.

        • +11

          All of this except don't RAISE your voice. When you need to be firm, speak quietly and deepen your voice a little. Let them know you mean business but they don't let them think the have the power to make you raise your voice. The calmer and firmer you are, the better.

      • +22

        It's what I plan to do with my daughter because it's how I was raised. I never understood parents who would cook a separate dinner for their kid. They'll learn to eat what's in front of them eventually.

        • -8

          Sometimes you want something nicer. Don't want to feed a 3 year old eye fillet, they're not going to appreciate it.

          • +5

            @Zephyrus: Sure they will. But you can portion less for them.

            • -5

              @Rumplefugly: Yeah, but cost is a thing. You can give the kid something similar and they won't know the difference.
              Give them some rump steak and they wouldn't be able to tell.

              • @Zephyrus: My kid can already tell the difference and he’s not quite 10months. Eye fillet actually represents good value. I don’t end up trimming off all the fat like I do if I get rump from Colesworth. They eat so little at that age that it’s really such a small price difference for something they’ll enjoy and is nutritious. However if price is an issue slow cooked gravy beef works a treat and is flavourful. My boy loves beef and carrot ragu made with gravy beef, as do his parents.

          • +3

            @Zephyrus: What you are describing is a separate dinner for you, not the kid.

            • -4

              @endotherm: That's a purely semantic difference, either way you cook two sets of food, one for you and one for the kid.

        • I mostly agree with this. The only thing I’m finding tricky with a bub under 12months is that most recipes we make have some salt and as we do use some pre-made sauces it can’t always be left out/added later. So we do some shared meals, but sometimes do something different for bub. We were given advice not to have any added salt or sugar before 12months, but I notice some parents and childcare centres do give food with salt.

      • +47

        Concept of shared inconvenience. At 2am if they wake you up hungry, get them up and in their eating place and reheat the food they didn’t eat for dinner. If not eating, back to bed. No fun, no chitchat, don’t be grumpy, but don’t make it the least bit enjoyable for them.
        Might take a few nights to correct the situation that you have allowed to happen, but good learning for you and for your child.

        • +3

          The key here is, as not very salty Pete said but could be emphasised more don't get angru. If you get angry, they get emotional, and it all collapses. Don't get angry, just make sure they know there is a wall on front of them and the only way through is to eat through.

          In a side note, if OP has a particularly stubborn child he may need to provide hi energy foods, or add energy to foods. Some kids will end up losing a lot of nutrition if the stand-off goes too long, as much as all the above advice is useful you do need to be careful

        • Wait I thought you're supposed to make mealtime enjoyable and fun?

          Is that not right?

          • +1

            @TEER3X: Yeah, but for the parents.

          • +14

            @TEER3X: Kind of but not in the way we usually do it in Aussie / English / American culture… It should be a formal meal routine, but you shouldn't make it a fun game, then they won't want to eat when you don't have time or willingness to play the games - it shouldn't be a kid-oriented game.

            There's a book called "French kids eat everything", it was written based on a cultural observation that statistically French people have less issues with fussy kids etc and eat all sorts of weird and wonderful French delicacies at a young age due to their different approach to cuisine and meals including with young kids. Here's a summary:

            • Parents schedule meals. Kids eat what adults eat.
            • Eat family meals together–and make them feel special (as in dress the table, lay out things, light a candle etc - make it a ceremony…. It does NOT mean, make the kid's spoon fly like a plane into their mouth - its not a game).
            • Food is not a reward, punishment or bribe. - don't give your kids food like a treat for a dog etc. Don't beg them to eat or applaude or praise them when to do. It should just be a life essential they habitually do - not something done for reward or out of fear or because they are being bribed with dessert.
            • Eat your veggies. Key: Think variety. Serve them first.
            • No snacking. It’s OK to feel hungry between meals.
            • Slow food is happy food. As in, eat slowly. Meals aren’t just about eating, of course, but also about socializing with friends and family
            • You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it:

            "The dinner table should not be a battle ground…. “If the child refuses to eat, the parents simply take the food away without too much comment.” … “Refrain from begging or even asking them to eat, and do not praise them for eating. Keep the conversation positive and not focused on the food, so that the kids will want to be at the table.” How eye-opening!"
            "Even if your child doesn’t want to eat something, they at least have to taste it… According to nutritionists, most children have to taste new foods 7-15 times before they willingly agree to eat them!"


        • +2

          This is a good option. We have dinner early-ish and my 3 and 4 year old cannot leave the table until all dinner is eaten. This results in missing out on lego time or books etc until they're done. We are very consistent with this eats they eat all manner of fruit and veg. It is still exhausting sometimes but it's so true that parenting is not convenient. Better teaching them while they're young dealing with small problems then letting them get away with things their way and suddenly having a teenager with much bigger problems that should have been addressed early.

        • +1

          I'm not a parent but all the stuff (including this) in this thread is all things we have to do with my highly strung rescue dog lmao. Guess I'm prepared if the day ever comes…

    • +34

      Yes, this is very sound advice, and will very def work on the sole proviso that you, and all supervisory care people formulate an unbendable, inflexible strategy re the eating plan.
      Kids will not starve or become compromised by going without food here and there. They will eat, provided you and others stay completely firm with the plans in place. It is, as has been mentioned, a battle of wills, power struggle, whatever you might wish to call it - as the parent, you must take charge, and although it may take a little time, it will bring positive outcomes. I also suggest it being vital to get rid of the likes of ice cream and just stay very strong, avoid as much as possible too much dialogue and enforce the new way forward diligently, without fear of causing physical harm to your child by the occasional forfeit of foods that they are dictating they will eat.
      As a former children's nurse for many years, often involved with children's dietary issues within hospitals, the no compromise approach will bring results, provided you and all others involved do not bend or deviate from your new plans in place, after which life will become easier. Remind yourself regularly, that this is your responsibility as a caring parent, rather than beating yourself up over feeling cruel etc…it needs to be done, and that's that! Other parents or friends may not agree with your firm approach, but that doesn't make them right or you wrong by adopting it.
      Good luck with all of it.

    • +19

      I'm gonna agree with this, but also OP get the kid involved in the meal prep! She's at the age now where she can stir things in the bowl, wash things under the tap etc. Make things she can get her hands into, like meatballs (just no licking your fingers!). Make cooking, and subsequently eating, fun! Have her eat some ingredients raw, like the peas etc.

      • +3

        Also I recently learned that some parents are terrible cooks (from reddit, there was a post about people describing things they didn't eat as a child and later loved in life, mainly because their parents were terrible cooks), not saying you're OP. Just…it would be good to get a second opinion :P

        • +2

          She will not even eat Uber eats lol so can’t just be my cooking

  • +4

    Not the exact answer you're looking for but habits take time and good habits pay off immensely in the long run.

    p.s.: According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-it-take-to-f...)

    • +1

      That's a lot of days to be without OzB!

  • first, you need to find what your kid like and then work slowly around it. It will take a lot of time or years for your kid to eat everything but it s worth the wait. Mine doesn t touch sweet and love only rice, pasta or noodles. And would rather eat the same meal again and again than trying something else. I keep offering the same food again and again. Even if my little doesn t touch it , one day he will. For fruit, i just put a plate on the coffee table and if he feels like trying he can reach it and get it himself. I know it s frustrating but i d rather my kid eat something than nothing even if it mean having to cook the same food, having his favorite fruit in stock and offering food that will not be touch..

  • +3

    "Eat 2 bits of carrot and 2 beans and then you can have more x". Works surprisingly well when trying to break in habits.

    • -1

      Bribery doesn’t work. Not sure if she understands or is just stubborn.

  • Sushi, dumplings, tuna pasta in cheese sauce, risotto, arancini, rice, sausages, brocolli, beans - just keep mixing it up. Find something standard like bread, toast, rice or some staple as a backup to keep them going while you try new things. Don’t give up - kids need a lot of nutrients from different foods and will get really sick if you feed them crap.

    • +1

      We have tried! She wants toast with nothing on it. It’s getting ridiculous and we are stressing out for her nutrition.
      She went from a fat baby that ate anything to the fussiest skinniest child.

      • +1

        All kids are different but in my experience most kids just love plain carbs. Plain rice, bread, pasta all seem to go down well! (Not great from a nutrition point of view though!)

      • Could it be because of the texture not the food itself?

      • -2

        Maybe she's sixteen and anorexic

      • Get that baby food back into her! She must have loved it back then…

        • She’s over the baby food. She screams and runs when she sees it.

  • How does she go during childcare? My son is fuss eater but he can have 2 serve in Childcare.

    Give her more fruit and milk if she doesn't like proper meal

    • +2

      Doesn’t go to childcare. My mother looks after her while I’m at work.

      • +1

        Try to send her to Childcare then, can start with 2 days? She need to socialise

        • +3

          I was going to but then Covid came up and changed my mind.

        • +1

          A 2 year old does not need childcare. Family is the best option if it can be arranged. Childcare at that age is typically in the parents best interest not the child's.

          • @Fantastik: Seem this topic have the different option by everyone here. 50-50.

            My opinion is no harm to try something new and 2 days a week is not bad for the child and the parent or carer.

            Do you think you would like to take care of your kids every day without a break? Also when you push it to your in-law or parent which they are already at least 55+ and most likely they are older, can they physically sustainable to take care of young kids for 3 years at least? I highly doubt they are ready to take on this responsibility.

            All in all, it is in my opinion and my experience. I saw my parent and in-law feeling tired to take care of my kids, 5 days then I cut down to 3 days, now everyone is more relax and kids learn to work with others in the childcare. So at the end of the day, it is your own choice.

            • +1

              @SnoozeAndLose: I know everyone has different situations so I'm not saying it's a blanket rule by any means.

              I have just seen countless numbers of people who send their kids to day care 5 days a week from 9 months onwards and there is nothing remotely good for the child about that. The socializing aspect really only kicks in at roughly age 3 when kids start learning proper associated play. Kids are much better off with the primary care giver as long as is reasonably possible.

              Yeah I know 24/7 with young kids is very hard. My wife did it with our kids and it's no walk in the park, she's a superstar. I just find people don't give raising kids the focus it generally requires. We moved out of the city centre to make sure we could afford to live on the one wage for this time and it is definitely not easy and you have to change your lifestyle a lot by I wouldn't trade away these early years for all the money in the world. Kids grow up fast, not worth getting 'ahead' to miss it.

              I know everyone's situation is different but the only options you talked about was that it's either older in-laws 5 days a week for years or childcare + in-laws. Did you consider changing life up to have a parent home with them 2 or 3 days while they're so young? Often people don't think they can and it generally requires big changes but I doubt you'd regret it.

              Again I know it's not always possible.

          • +3


            A 2 year old does not need childcare

            Incorrect: A two year old needs a day or two at childcare if her own parents can’t stop her eating ice cream for every meal.

      • +2

        This may be the root of the problem - remember your childhood experiences and think about how you were brought up too. Is your mother a “food is a treat” person? Food should never be a treat. The occasion of eating together can be a treat but never food. It’s a setup for a life of bad habits.

      • +11

        Does that mean the doting grandma is feeding her ice cream treats etc rather than pushing real food at her, what was your exp with mum and food groups?

        The I love you you can have whatever you want approach is not good be firm, you select the meal content and tell mum to feed her this etc

        • I’ve given her the lecture about no sweets but yes you could be right…grandmas and sugar…

  • +11

    The right advice is to serve what your child likes, plus one extra new food. The first time, tell him what it is then never mention it again, just serve a little on his plate along with what he likes, and eat it yourself. If he doesn't eat it, no fuss. Eventually, could take weeks, but he'll try it. Don't give praise or anything, just treat it as normal. When he eats it reliably, start a new food, explain what it is, serve it with food he will eat, eat it yourself, and keep serving it until he eats it reliably, then a new one etc. Don't praise for eating (including only getting dessert if they finish everything on their plate - let them have a small amount with everyone else even if they don't finish and keep the remains to offer again before they go to bed or if they complain of being hungry) , and don't punish for not eating.

    Battling over meals will just create issues over food down the road. Eating, like going to the toilet, is one of the few things a toddler has real control over. If you try to force or bribe, it just inflames the control issues as they use it as an outlet for all their other daily frustrations.

    • I think your correct. It’s become a control issue now that she doesn’t want to eat anything.

    • +1

      Would that advice work on a 2 year old? Maybe at 4 years old?

  • +2

    Fussy Cat

    • +1

      Yes we have a fussy dog as well that only wants to eat expensive cat food

  • Baked beans, apparently the only thing I would eat when I was young. Still love it LOL

    • Very low maintenance! I wish she would eat that.

  • +52

    Get rid of the ice cream out of the house. Open the freezer and show them that there is no ice cream to be had. Don’t buy it again.

    Sounds a lot like this kid controls you. If they won’t eat dinner, then they don’t get ice cream. Ice cream is not a meal. And if they wake up at 2am, tell them you dont care that they are hungry, they had the opportunity to eat at dinner with everyone else. Next meal is breakfast. Kid is not going to starve to death in 4~12 hours…

    Start with easy kid type stuff. Toast, sandwiches, peas, corn, mashed potatoes, that kind of easy to make stuff that’s easy for kids to work around. And don’t go the chicken nugget thing, because that will be your next post, “how do I get them off only nuggets”.

    Make variety as well. Make it fun. Faces on plates, toast fingers, ask them if they want to help. And pick at the food you are making and eat it in front of them. A lot of the time, it’s monkey see, monkey do.

    Most of all, don’t stress, kids that only eat ice cream are like dealing with drug addicts. They want the sugar and going through withdrawals is a bitch.

    • +12

      Good idea getting rid of the ice cream from the freezer. I’ll start with that.

      • +9

        And make sure "grandma" who looks after her has no ice-cream in her freezer either!

        • Given my MIL has a full size pot drawer full of chocolate in her kitchen, I reckon grandma will be pumping the ice cream into the toddler regardless. She'll say she won't though.

    • +3

      Not sure why you were down voted. This seems like reasonable advice. Tough but good for the kids long term.

    • Sounds like my house growing up. My parents hid the biscuits in their bedroom!

    • +1

      Why would anyone downvote this? This is great advice.

      • -2

        Lol, found the downvoter. Care to share your reasons for disagreeing with pegaxs?

    • -5

      Getting rid of the ice cream won't help. Two year olds don't listen to logic. They'll just howl, "want ice cream! Want ice cream!" For hours and scream.

      • +11

        Hence the reference to addiction. They will scream and they will throw a tanty of epic proportions and you can either give in and reinforce their inner Karen, or you can weather it out and show them that no matter how bad a tanty they throw, it won’t make ice cream re-appear.

        When my kids throw a tanty, I will either just laugh at them or mirror them. Once they realise that it’s not having the desired effect, they usually tone it down. It’s just a kids way of trying to take control. They are learning to push buttons to see what they can get away with.

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