By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with A/Prof Marion Aw, Senior Consultant, Division of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation, National University Hospital.

A picky eater can frustrate even the most patient parent—don’t worry though, fussiness is a phase some toddlers go through. Don’t throw in the towel just yet! Here are some simple tips to get the little one to be more adventurous with food.

Keep Mealtimes Relaxed

Don’t stress your kid out about food! Keep the meal environment calm, and keep distractions like TV, toys, and tablets away—this helps your child concentrate on eating. Smile at and chat with your toddler to keep him engaged.

Related: Health Hazards of Electronic Devices for Kids

Make Meals Interesting

Kids are attracted to colour and interesting shapes, so why not make their meals as colourful and interesting as possible? Moulds and cutters in various shapes can bring an otherwise boring dish to life! Good-looking food will help whet your child’s appetite.

Related: Look What I Brought for Recess!

Eat as a Family

Telling your kids to eat something isn’t as effective as showing them. Whatever you put on your kid’s plate should also be on everyone’s plate at the dining table, minus the salt and sugar. Do make sure your baby eats food from the major food groups—wholegrains, vegetables, fruit, and meat/others.

Eating together as a family at the dinner table is also an excellent way to demonstrate good eating habits and behaviours from parent to child. Use this time to foster strong family bonds by communicating and interacting with each other.

Related: Nutrition for Your Toddler

Try (and Try) Again

Patience and positivity are key when it comes to a fussy eater. If your toddler wouldn’t try something, you can offer it up to him during the next meal. Keep trying and continuously encourage them to try to eat it, even if it’s just one bite.

Particularly when it comes to new foods: you may need to offer that new food as many as 10 times before your toddler would accept it.

If you give up and let them have their way now, it’ll be much harder to break the habit in future. That said, do not force him to eat if he refuses.

Related: When the Dinner Table Is a Battlefield

What to Avoid

We want kids to build a healthy relationship with food, so here are a few things parents should avoid doing.

Do not:

  • Shame your kid and blame or scold him for being a fussy eater.
  • Bribe them in order to get them to eat.
  • Offer his favourite food as a reward for eating.
  • Let them snack too much, especially before meals. If you must, make sure they’re light, healthy snacks. When kids are hungry, they’ll be more open to eating new things.
  • Force them to finish the entire meal. Encourage them to take at least one bite, and if they really can’t finish the meal, don’t push it.

It is not uncommon for young children to express some fussiness around eating, especially when it comes to new foods.

Even as adults, not all of us are adventurous in trying new exotic cuisines from around the world. The important thing is to ensure that your toddler is getting enough nutrition. As long as he is growing up healthy and happy, you’re doing an incredible job!

However, if you suspect that your child isn’t growing well, or that your toddler’s eating behaviour is causing you a fair amount of anxiety, it is best to discuss this with your doctor.

Read these next:


  1. How to Cope with Feeding a Fussy Toddler. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a1008600/how-to-cope-with-feeding-a-fussy-toddler