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When a child refuses to eat

Try the following suggestions if your child is refusing to eat certain foods.

If your child refuses meat

Serve foods with low-salt gravy or sauce. For example, stew, spaghetti bolognese or shepherd's pie.

Use alternative protein sources. Pulse vegetables such as lentils, chickpeas and baked beans make good casserole ingredients. Try peas and eggs too.

Use minced meat, including beef, turkey, chicken and pork. Meatballs are popular with children.

Grilled sausages, chicken nuggets, beef burgers or fish fingers are also popular. But they are lower in protein and higher in fat and salt.

Other things to try:

  • Liquidise meat in soup, stews or gravies.
  • Offer different types of meat.
  • Offer boiled, poached or scrambled eggs.
  • Try smooth peanut or other nut butters as a source of protein.
  • Add lentils to pasta sauce or soup.

If your child refuses vegetables

Use vegetables to make purées. This could include homemade vegetable soup, stews or casseroles.

Offer a variety of vegetables over time. Beans, corn and peas are popular with children.

Other things to try:

  • Mash vegetables with potato and a small amount of low-salt gravy.
  • Grate vegetables into other food.
  • Replace vegetable portions with fruit.
  • Raw carrot sticks, strips of peppers or cucumber.

If your child refuses milk

If your child does not want milk, you could give them food that has milk in it. Try custard, milk pudding, sauces or homemade milkshakes and smoothies.

Other things to try:

  • Add cheese to jacket potato, spaghetti and sauces, or use as a snack food.
  • Yogurt or fromage frais.
  • Tinned fish with edible bones, mashed up well. For example, salmon and sardines.

If the fussy eating continues, ask for advice from your public health nurse (PHN), doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2022
Next review due: 14 October 2025