What to do when your child won’t eat fruit (or only one or two types!)
Some fussy eaters are little fruit bats who will choose fruit over other foods (a problem in itself!) but more often the problem is that they don’t eat fruit – or are fixated on eating the same one or two over and over again. Here’s my 10 top tips to getting them eating fruit – of all sorts.
Avoid the sentence “If you’re hungry, there’s fruit in the bowl!” This makes fruit sound like it’s bottom of the pile! A last resort. A punishment almost. This won’t make your child think fondly of fruit at all!
Your child needs to get used to being ‘up close and personal’ with fruit before they can become receptive to the idea of eating it. So start serving them fruit regularly – tiny amounts at first – and keep doing it whether they eat it or not. Raspberries with breakfast? Grapes plus breadsticks for a snack? Melon after dinner?
Chopping or slicing a fruit adds a layer of nurture and presentation that makes it more appealing straight away, even for older children. Thinly slice an apple, chop a banana, peel a satsuma and break the segments up… That’s not to say that if your child reaches an age where they want to have their apple whole like a grown-up or try to peel a banana by themselves, you should stop them. Go with it!
One way to entice your child to ‘interact’ with the fruit you’ve served – rather than just ignore it – is to serve it with a cocktail stick. It’s difficult for a child to resist picking up a blueberry or satsuma segment by stabbing it! (Cut off the very sharp tip of the stick with scissors if you’re worried.) It doesn’t matter if they don’t eat the fruit. This interaction is a really important step forward.
If your child squeezes their orange into their water to make “orange juice” or shows you how a blueberry fits really nicely inside the hole of a raspberry or stabs their apple slices with the cocktail stick but doesn’t eat them, don’t tell them to “stop messing about” or “just eat it”. Playing with the fruit – handling it, exploring it, enjoying it – creates a comfortableness and positivity towards it. It’s actually a Very Good Sign.
#7 Branch out!
Don’t stick to serving the same old fruit. After all, there are soooooooo many out there: pomegranate, coconut, passion fruit… The idea isn’t to hunt for one they like. It’s to ignite their curiosity in fruit. Children are born curious about the world, including food – until we crush that with constant pressure to eat things which sends them in the other direction! You could begin with just teaching them the names of all the different fruit in the supermarket – and quizzing them every time you go.
I don’t mean in a contrived way like serving them a kiwi in the shape of a star (your child will see straight through that!). Do it in ways that the fruit lends itself to naturally: Hammer a coconut open. Let them feel how heavy a whole watermelon or prickly a pineapple is. Plant some apple pips in a pot. Make a banana split together. Take a red grape and a green grape, close your eyes and let them pop one in your mouth to see if you can guess which colour it is…
“Oranges have lots of vitamin C”. “Fruit helps you poo more easily!” It’s okay to teach your child about the health benefits of fruit (or any other food) but not too young, not too often – and never at the table or around food! They will simply perceive it as pressure to eat it and push against that!