The six words that END fussy eating forever

One mum shares her sage advice

Content Editor / March 01 2019

We’ve all experienced the frustration when you serve up a beautifully home-cooked meal to be met with complete refusal by your child.

All the cajoling, coaxing, sticker charts and promises of ice-creams come to nothing as your child clamps their lips and firmly turns their head the other way.

Mum Leigh Anderson shared her top tip for ending fussy eating on Scary Mommy, and it’s beautifully simple.

Getty Images

Getty Images

“When my older son was 18 months old, he stopped eating what I put in front of him,” she explained.

“He fussed endlessly at mealtimes, pointing to the cabinet where we kept the crackers and bread. He refused fruits and vegetables. He would eat only meat, cheese, and bread.”

After commiserating with friends and endless hair-pulling, she finally came across the book Child of Mine: Feeding With Care and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Satter, a registered dietician nutritionist and family therapist, promotes a “division of responsibility” for meals: the parent decides when to eat, what to serve, and where to serve it, and the child decides whether and how much to eat.

The trick is, she says, to place foods on the table your kid will eat (bread, plain pasta or rice, for example), alongside other options such as fruit, meat and veggies.

Allow your child to choose and eat what he likes, without pressure or comment, and dinner times instantly become more relaxed – which is the goal, after all.

And the magic six words that she recommends you use: “You don’t have to eat it.”

“Our new system doesn’t mean that he never expresses dislike or says ‘yuck’ or claims that he’s not going to eat anything,” Leigh explains.

“In fact, the other day he looked at his plate and said irritably, ‘Hey, I wanted a good dinner,’ which, after an hour at the stove, made me want to sweep the whole table of food to the floor in an elaborate, screaming, Melissa McCarthy-esque breakdown.

“But every time he says yuck or I don’t want that, I say calmly, ‘You don’t have to eat it,’ and tuck into my own meal.

“You don’t have to eat it,” spoken in a mild tone, without rancor, has completely changed my life.

Sometimes he too doesn’t eat even a bite of dinner, and I’m tempted to poke in a few spoonfuls while he watches a TV show. But I restrain myself. I mean, he doesn’t have to eat it…those are the 6 words that will end picky eating.”

Nicola Conville has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 20 years across a wide range of print and online publications. Her areas of expertise are parenting, health and travel. She has two children; Lucy, age eight, and Nathan, age five.