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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. However, they are lower in protein and higher in fat and salt.

Other things to try:

  • Liquidise meat in soup, stews or gravies.
  • Vary meat type.
  • Offer boiled, poached or scrambled eggs.

If your child refuses vegetables

Use vegetables disguised as 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.
  • Add lentils to pasta sauce or soup.
  • Raw carrot sticks, strips of peppers or cucumber.

If your child refuses milk

Give milk in disguised form. Try custard, milk pudding, sauces or homemade milkshakes and smoothies.

Other things to try:

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

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

Related topics

Healthy eating for families

Children and fussy eating

Food portion sizes for toddlers

page last reviewed: 15/03/2018
next review due: 15/03/2021