What to do when your fussy eater eats something new (it definitely isn’t this!)

OMG! They ate pasta with sauce on when they usually only eat it plain… Or a cheese sandwich instead of the honey sandwich they always insist on… Or some of vegetables with their roast dinner instead of just the Yorkshire Pudding…

When your fussy eater eats something new, it can make you want to yelp with joy and dance around the kitchen!

Don’t! If you want to maximize the chance they’ll eat it again next time you serve it – rather than it being a ‘one off’ – here’s what you SHOULD do:

⭐️ Show no reaction at all!

In fact, act like you didn’t even notice they ate it. If you show your delight, you’ll show them how much you want them to eat it – which simply gives them something to react against! “So she thinks I’ll eat it every time from now on, does she? We’ll see about that!”

⭐️ Don’t even praise them for eating it!

When you say “Well done for eating your broccoli” or “Good boy for eating some of the meat”, you’re still showing them you really want them to eat it – inviting them to go in the opposite direction! Praise also implies that eating it was difficult or unpleasant (a rubbish message!) – when actually all food is great and eating is a normal, natural and enjoyable thing to do! Save praise for the genuinely difficult or unpleasant things in life like learning your times tables or having an injection!

⭐️ Don’t ask them if they like it!

This can slip out your mouth so easily when your child eats something new! “Do you like it? … Is it yummy?” It may sound harmless but firstly it shows them (yet again – albeit subtley) that you want them to eat it. Secondly, talk of Likes and Dislikes is never a good idea because it reinforces a rigid rather than a flexible mindset towards foods: “There are two types of food in the world – The ones I like and the ones I don’t like – and that’s just the way it is!”

⭐️ Leave a gap before you serve it again!

When your child eats something new, it can be so tempting to serve it again really soon. Even the very next day! But kids will see straight through that! “Ah, so she noticed I ate it, did she – and so she thinks I’m going to eat it again today. Ha!” At the same time, you want to keep them familiar and comfortable with that new food and not leave too big a gap. About a week is just right.

⭐️ Don’t be too disappointed if they don’t eat it the next time

Progress with a fussy eater is rarely a straightforward, upwards line. Instead, it goes up and down in a wiggly way with an overall upward trend. Maybe the next time you serve it, they’re less hungry, tired, or don’t fancy it because they had it at nursery or school. Or maybe they’re testing you to see if they can get a reaction if they don’t eat it this time!

⭐️ But keep serving it…

Once a new food has been eaten once, keep it on the menu! Make absolutely sure it makes a regular appearance to keep them familiar and comfortable with it – just not too often! 

Scared to serve your child anything different? Read What’s the best way to introduce my fussy eater to new and different foods?