Fussy or picky eating

Fussy or picky eating is common in children under 5 years – but most children will eat when they are hungry. If your child is a fussy eater, try the ideas on this page.

Choose healthy snacks
Talk to your nurse or doctor if you are worried about your child’s fussy eating.

Tips for fussy eating

  • Offer your child small amounts of the foods they refuse, as well as new foods and the foods they like.
  • Praise works well and children will try new foods more willingly if you encourage them. Bribing, forcing or nagging your child to eat won’t work so well.
  • Try not to battle over mealtimes.
  • Give your child a range of healthy foods and let them choose what they want to eat and how much.
  • Avoid offering snacks just before meals. A 1- or 2-hour gap will help your child to feel hungrier by mealtime. If your child asks for food but doesn’t seem hungry, try to keep them busy.
  • Check how much your child is drinking. Too much milk can fill their tummy and make them not want to eat. Young children can usually have up to 500 ml of milk per day.
  • Eat together as a family, and eat the foods that you want your child to eat – they love to copy what you do.
  • Sit down while you are eating, and turn off the TV and other devices (phones, tablets, etc).

See Feeding your child for more information about what young children should eat and drink.

Related websites

Eating for healthy babies and toddlers – HealthEd (Health Promotion Agency and Ministry of Health)
Food information for babies and toddlers from birth to 2 years old. Includes breastfeeding and the benefits of breastmilk, formula feeding, drinking plenty of fluids, starting solids, how to prevent choking, healthy eating habits, and meal ideas for babies and toddlers.

Eating for healthy children aged 2 to 12 years – HealthEd (Health Promotion Agency and Ministry of Health)
Food information for children aged 2–12. Includes healthy eating, daily physical activity, good eating behaviours, food groups and variety, healthy food including fruit and vegetables, vitamins and protein, vegetarian options, healthy snacks, drinking plenty of fluids, and having very few takeaways.


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