Breakfasts for fussy eaters and picky eaters – the basics
As a Picky Eating Advisor, I love talking food with parents of fussy eaters and looking for ways we can make food more appealing. However, I always start lists like these with words of caution.
Yes, the food is important, but it is not about finding the magical recipe that enables our child to finally eat new foods. A more effective approach is gently and gradually building comfort around the foods we would like our child to eat.
It is also critically important that we do vary what’s on the menu – even if it’s only a teeny, tiny change. If our child eats the same things in the same way every day, it becomes harder and harder to add new things.
So, let’s look at some breakfast ideas but also ways we could start making those little changes even if our child is not ready to accept anything new yet.
Many fussy eaters are comfortable with cereal.
Maybe one or maybe a range. Eating with milk or yoghurt is common, but so is eating it dry.
Let’s investigate some ways that we can make small changes, we can build comfort and we can look at some new foods too!
If our child has more than one cereal that they are happy to eat, then my advice is to rotate between the two. Yes, they may prefer Cocopops to Rice Bubbles, but if they are able to eat the Rice Bubbles then is refusing them about preference and therefore behavioural?
If we have a child that is only comfortable eating one cereal then it’s important to look for other options, especially if it’s their only breakfast option. Otherwise, we can be left stranded if they get bored and drop that cereal.
Below are many suggestions. As ideas for one category are often relevant to others, don’t skip reading as you may miss out on the perfect strategy for your child!
Cereal with milk
If our child has cereal with milk. Can we:
1. Let them pour their own milk. Giving autonomy is a great way to increase interaction, focus on foods and interest. If we have littlies we can make sure we have an oilcloth/plastic tablecloth on the table and put only a tiny amount in a plastic jug (in case of oopsies).
2. Have warm milk instead of cold. Changes, even small ones are important. In the winter it’s also lovely to put something warm in the tummy.
3. Have a bowl of milk and add the cereal to the bowl rather than the other way round. This is great if we have child that doesn’t like soggy cereal, they can have a separate bowl and add a few at a time.
4. Add colour. Using natural food colours to make the milk into a blue ocean – to sail the Weetbix boat on or let the Cheerio life-rings float in. How great would it be if green ‘swamp’ milk let’s our child know that eating green is good?
5. Cocoa powder. Adding some cocoa changes the colour and the taste of the cereal. These changes are great for gently showing our child new can be good. Cocoa powder has no sugar and is a great source of zinc.
We could use this to naturally change the Rice Bubbles to Cocopops, you can always add sweetener, should you wish.
6. Adding some fruit adds sweetness but also helps us move towards the 5 a day. If only dried fruit is accepted, then that is a good option.
Tinned fruits can be easier as they are sweet and uniform.
My top tip for increasing the amount of fruit eaten is to serve it more often!
Cereal with yoghurt
1. Change the flavour of the yoghurt. I always advise against surprising our child at the table, but gently working towards new flavours can be a great way to bring in change.
2. Have other options to add to the yoghurt/cereal. Often mixing foods is a challenge for picky eaters. It’s therefore important that we are consistently looking for ways to gently teach our child how to do this.
Having a small bowl of raisins, sprinkles, choc chips or other small things to add to the yoghurt is a great idea. If this is new for a child, they will often be reluctant at the beginning – and that’s normal. We can model to help build comfort levels.
3. Use a squeezy bottle so we can make fun shapes in the bowl with the yoghurt.
Many of the same suggestions for milk or yoghurt, apply also to porridge.
1. Adding milk/yoghurt – if our child had either of these at other times, it can be a smaller step to adding to the cereal. I would advise having the tiniest bowl of milk on offer to dip into and show how much fun that is by modelling (but not pushing our child to do it too).
2. Can we mix different cereals? If we have Cocopops, can we add a few Rice Bubbles or Cheerios, for example. Perhaps we can make it into a game. How quickly can you spot the different one?
Remember, new things often take time to be accepted so we can’t add once and expect uptake. Adding a few pieces of a new cereal consistently – with no push to eat, would be my advice.
3. Adding extra things to the cereal. For example, jam and peanut butter spread on the Weetbix or dipping the Cheerios in honey.
4. Serve in unusual bowls or containers. Small changes are important for our child as they help to prepare for new.
Another food that many fussy eaters accept.
1. If we have a specific sort of bread that we use, are we able to vary this slightly? Sometimes, it works well to have our child involved in picking the new type.
Or can we have 3 squares of one and 1 square of the new one to gradually get used to it?
Remember, anything new may take time to become comfortable with.
2. Can we change the presentation? If we have squares, can we do triangles or strips? Small changes are always valuable.
If our child is very rigid in what they will accept, it is even more important to introduce change (if this is a challenge for you, I offer personalized strategies and plans to help with how to introduce in a gentle manner).
Even if our child is okay with new shapes, it’s still valuable to make changes.
3. Can we add toppings? For children who aren’t comfortable with anything on the toast or bread, dipping can be easier.
4. Can we vary toppings? For example, if we have a peanut butter lover are we able to switch to something else? Perhaps a different nut butter, or perhaps adding some jam.
Or, can we have different options to choose from? Yes, we always take our favourites to begin with, but if we are never offered anything else…
5. French toast. Adding some eggs and milk ups the protein quotient! If or child loves crunchy then we can cook until dry and crispier.
Next week we’ll look at other breakfast ideas!
Please share this with family and friends you feel may benefit.
Judith is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.
She is also mum to two boys and the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
Learn more about Judith here: https://theconfidenteater.com/about/