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The Confident Eater

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, nuggets, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Why won’t my fussy child eat dinner?

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Why won’t my fussy child eat dinner?

Your child happily eats breakfasts, snacks, and a bit of lunch. Then when it’s time for dinner, the mouth clamps shut, the whining starts and once again you are left feeling stressed, frustrated, and panicking that they are:

i) Not getting the nutrients they need
ii) Hungry when they should be full
iii) Perhaps not going to sleep through the night as they are hungry
iv) Never going to eat what you eat.

Or perhaps the nightmare starts way earlier. You wake in the morning and your first thought is “what am I going to give Sam for dinner?”. Or Jess is in your room wearing her already disappointed face demanding to know what you’re serving tonight.

If this is you, do not despair, and do not feel like you are alone either. Most parents find dinners the biggest challenge.

Let’s unpack why and then look for some workable solutions!

Why a fussy child won’t eat dinner

There are some very simple factors that make dinners more of a challenge than other meals. Understanding what they are also may provide some solutions.

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, tired child, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

1. Tired. By the end of the day most children are feeling pretty tired. They will have had a busy day at school/Kindy plus often after-school activities.

It means they are starting dinner on the back foot, already exhausted and therefore less able to cope with challenges, especially if food is an area of discomfort.

We too are often tired. We have had a full day of organising children, working, doing chores, and worrying about a million different things. The end of the day is not a great space for us to be tackling reluctant eaters.

2. Overwhelmed. By the end of the day our children are often also in sensory overload. They have been on the go for hours and there have been multiple demands on them physically, mentally, and emotionally.

By dinner they have less coping skills than they have earlier in the day. The same is often true of parents too. I know I have way less patience at 6.00pm than I do earlier in the day 😊

3. Challenging. Dinner foods are usually far more challenging than those served earlier in the day.

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, cereal, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Breakfasts are often easier as they are generally both carbohydrates – a favourite of picky eaters – and uniform. Toast and cereals do not differ from day to day. They are simple, crunchy, and reliably the same each morning.

First thing in the morning children are often hungrier too – especially if they haven’t eaten dinner!

Snacks are easier as again they are predictable and often favourite foods. Salty or sweet, crunchy, uniform and moorish.

Lunches we generally serve foods that will work well for our child, whether that’s a sandwich, a toastie or some pasta.

Then dinner rolls around and it all gets more difficult. There are vegetables which are seen as ‘must eats’ and are not salty/sweet and crunchy. Then there are foods which are far more complex than during the day, like integrated dishes or ones with sauce or spices.

4. Important. Plus, there seems to be a lot more pressure to eat at dinner than at lunch, for example. The foods that are served are the ‘must eats’.

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, broccoli, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Having something in the tummy is imperative, especially if not eating leads to night-time wakes.

It may be the only time when parents are able to focus on their child’s eating when we all have such busy lives. It therefore becomes the time when we do want to teach them to eat the ‘healthy’ stuff.

So, what can we do?

Standard choices

Feeding can be so challenging. When things go well it all seems so easy, but when things go pear-shaped it seems to go from bad to worse.

There is little support and zero training around meals, especially if you have children who are past the baby stage.

Please do not feel bad if you see yourself in any of the following scenarios.
Generally, parents have resorted to one, or a combination of four choices:

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, peanut butter on bread, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

1. Feed them their sandwich/toast/plain pasta/nuggets. It’s the end of the day, we are all tired and we know they will eat their favourite food. It’s less effort, and they are going to bed with a full tummy.

The challenge with this is that it often leaves parents feeling a bit guilty as they would prefer their child to be eating the foods they themselves eat in the evenings.
They are also aware their child is also not learning to eat new foods.

There is evidence that not tackling certain tastes or textures also can make children more sensitive to those new tastes/textures and therefore less likely to be able to eat them at a later stage.

The plus to doing this is that there is little drama, children are being fed and food does not become an unpleasant experience.

2. Feed them the family meal. We all want our child to happily eat what we do. It’s easier, we know they are getting the nutrients they need, and it means they are going to find social occasions easier.

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, dinner food, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Giving children the same food as everyone else is ideal… unless they are unable to eat it night after night.

Having a child come to the table, refuse to eat, and go to bed hungry is not a positive. It is a consistently negative experience for the child and feeling unhappy/uncomfortable at the table usually does not help a child to eat.

Or having a child who happily comes to the table already determined not to eat. It can mean they are losing important internal hunger cues that are helpful in balanced and intuitive eating.

For parents it often means mealtimes are difficult too and sending a child to bed with no or little food is not a great feeling.

On the plus side, exposing a child to the family food is important. But when food is consistently not eaten, I question whether the positives are outweighed by the negatives.

3. Family meal followed by favourites. Doing a mix and match is a common strategy. Feeding our child the family meal, but then when they refuse giving them something we know they will eat. Or a supper of favourites later on.

I’m always hesitant about option B’s. Children are usually pretty quick to cotton on to the fact that not eating dinner means crackers/toast etc. later on, so it’s easy to wait for the fun stuff.

I’m uncomfortable with the long-term message which is “if you hang on long enough you’ll get what you want to eat”.

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, crackers, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

The plus to this is that children do see the family food and generally, dinner is not a site of friction or discomfort. Which is a plus!

4. Favourite with side of family meal. This again is very common. Serve a sandwich which we know will get eaten, but also have some lasagne on the side of the plate ‘just in case’.

Parents who do this are absolutely following much of the tried and tested advice around feeding. They are ensuring their child does get to see new foods, but in a low-pressure way. They are also filling the tummy – a plus.

This is not a bad strategy. However, it often doesn’t incentivise a child to eat the new foods. They have their favourite, the family meal can happily sit there, but they are not really entertaining the idea that they will eat the new food.

If we have a super selective eater, an older child or additional challenges like sensory sensitivities involved, they will likely need more support to bridge from the sandwich to the family food.

Let’s take away some lessons from all these scenarios and pick the best parts of each!

A happy medium for dinners for a fussy eater

Why doesn’t my fussy child eat dinner? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, nuggets, #whydoesntmyfussychildeatdinner, #dinnerforfussyeaters, #dinnerforpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

1. Food to eat. It’s important that there is something at the table our child can eat. No one comes to the table happily if there isn’t. Going to bed fed is also important. Consistently not eating can be a downward spiral.

2. Nice environment. Having a relaxed atmosphere is important. The more relaxed we are, the more likely we are to eat.

3. Opportunity to eat new foods. If we don’t see new foods, it is more difficult to eat them. Which means seeing the family foods is important.

4. Focus on family foods. The goal is for our child to learn to eat the family foods. Therefore, being a part of the meal is important. Just having a sandwich puts all the focus on that.

However, having the family foods as an after-thought, makes them just that. It’s far better to have our child actively involved in the meal.

If you’d like some help in how to do this gently and effectively, please get in touch for additional support.

Judith Yeabsley, The Confident Eater. Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, #helpaddingfoodsfussyeating, #helpfortoddlerfussyeaters, #helpfortoddlerpickyeaters, #helpaddingfoodforpickyeaters, #theconfidenteater, #fussyeatingNZ, #pickyeatingNZ #helpforpickyeaters, #helpforpickyeating, #recipespickyeaterswilleat, #recipesfussyeaterswilleat #winnerwinnerIeatdinner, #Recipesforpickyeaters, #Foodforpickyeaters, #wellington, #NZ, #judithyeabsley, #helpforfussyeating, #helpforfussyeaters, #fussyeater, #fussyeating, #pickyeater, #pickyeating, #supportforpickyeaters, #creatingconfidenteaters, #newfoods, #bookforpickyeaters, #thepickypack, #funfoodsforpickyeaters, #funfoodsdforfussyeaters

Now I’m also going to throw in a big spanner. In my opinion, dinner is NOT the place to teach our child to eat new foods. It is the place to relax, bond, break bread together and for our child to see us role modelling what we’d like them to gradually learn to do.

Actively teaching at dinner is not a great idea for all the reasons first discussed. Tired, end of the day, more challenging foods. All of these make dinners a less ideal place to work on eating difficulties. Which in some ways is good, it means we can just make dinners about bonding and family-time.

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/