A child refusing eating vegetables
Fussy Eating


5 mins read

While having a child who is fussy or picky about what they eat is common - as many as half of all pre-school children are picky eaters. It can be stressful for parents and caregivers who worry about their child's rejection of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and the potential lack of nutrients in their child's diet.

Picky eaters may refuse to eat certain types of food or food groups, are often unwilling to try new foods and have strong food preferences. They may also avoid food based on the way it feels, smells or tastes. Mealtimes may take longer as these children show a lack of interest in eating, so they may eat slowly or eat only small amounts of food.

Picky eating has been linked to early feeding difficulties, late introduction of lumpy foods when introducing solids and the pressure to eat. One theory is that there is a genetic link to our preference for specific tastes, particularly our sensitivity to bitter-taste. Children with low taste sensitivity are likely to eat more vegetables than children with higher taste sensitivity. Our preference for salty and sweet tastes is also likely to be linked to our biology.

As much as we know about children who are picky-eaters, it is important to cultivate healthy eating habits. Many parents struggle to teach their children healthy eating behaviours, particularly if they are picky eaters.

Below is some practical advice on how to develop good eating behaviour in your child.

Feed to encourage appetite:  

  • Serve small meals and snacks at consistent times of the day, with 2-3 hours between each meal and snack time, allowing the child to become hungry before the next meal.
  • Only serve milk designed specifically for growing children, nutritional beverages, juice designed specifically for growing children, or water at the end of the meal or snack, and not before, so as not to fill their stomachs.

Avoid distraction:

  • Seat children at a table for meals and snacks, using a highchair or booster if necessary.
  • Avoid allowing television, tablets, toys, electronics or books at mealtimes, as this takes away the experience of eating. Instead, engage children using food or by allowing children to self-feed.

Families should eat together:

  • Eat together as a family to allow interaction and bonding.
  • Family mealtimes can be an opportunity to teach healthy eating habits and good table manners to children.

Encourage your child to eat on their own:

  • Allow for food spillage and age-appropriate mess during mealtimes.
  • Cover the floor if it makes cleaning up after meals easier.

Systematically introduce new food:

  • Provide some of your child's favourite foods together with a small amount of new food.
  • If your child refuses new food, offer just one bite of the new food, but do not force them.
  • Try to reintroduce the new food after a few days or weeks as a child's preference often changes.

Limit duration:

  • Eating should begin within 15 mins of the start of the meal.
  • Meals should last no longer than 20-30 mins.
  • Remove all food once the meal is over and only offer it again at the next planned meal.

Serve age-appropriate food:

  • Offer reasonably small helpings (e.g. size of the child's fist). A general rule of thumb is to offer one tablespoon of each food per year of the child's age.
  • A bigger serving can be offered, according to the child's appetite.

Maintain a neutral attitude during feeding time:

  • Do not get overly excited or animated.
  • Avoid becoming or appearing angry.
  • Avoid bribes, threats or punishments.


NOTICE: NESTLE® NIDO® 3+ is not a breast-milk substitute and is formulated to support the changing needs of healthy children older than 3 years.


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