How To Get Your Fussy Eater To Try New Foods

It’s no secret that Mr 4 is my fussy eater – he is the inspiration behind me starting this blog, to help other parents of fussy eaters cope and keep their fussy eater nourished. This journey has taken a couple of detours along the way (including me going back to study at University to become a Nutritionist!) but the core of my blog is still all about finding ways to nourish my fussy eater.

So, despite all of my efforts Mr 4 still have a very very narrow range of “yes” foods that are included in his day to day diet. He’s a healthy, happy boy who is not under-nourished in any way – I’m just a paranoid and concerned Mother who wishes he ate a wider variety of foods so keep on persevering with different tricks (like Burger French Toast) to get this to happen.

I’ve always just wished that he ate like a “normal” child and would eat “normal” foods without all the secrecy and frustration.

Enter the Reward Chart…

We had incredible success using a reward system to move his toilet training along, not too long ago. So, I decided to use the same reward system to try and encourage him to try new foods – openly and honestly and with a reward at the end. You see, Mr 4 is one of this children who refuses for a “No” food to even be on his plate, let alone actually touch it or put it in his mouth. So I knew this would be a challenge for all of us. I explained the new reward system to him, asked him what reward he would like for trying new foods, this way he knew what he was “playing” for and I could make him an applicable rewards chart.

He picked a Lego Helicopter. So, I printed a picture of the Lego Helicopter and above it I simply wrote:

Mr 4’s Reward Chart
1                   2                      3                     4                       5

(By the way – can you tell I’m really design savvy?!)

We kept the rewards chart on the fridge and as we went along I used a highlighter to tick off each number and wrote the food underneath to keep track.

5 New Foods Here We Come! 

The first meal of reward chart dining was sausages. He knew what was at stake, and for the first time he didn’t make a fuss about the sausages on his plate. He refused to eat them, instead eating the rest of the food on his plate (all “Yes” foods). The following two nights were the same, and his reward chart remained empty.

Then, My Husband and I agreed that we should give him a food that he used to like but has refused to eat over the past couple of months, a food that he more than likely would eat which would get him his first tick and closer to his goal of a Lego Helicopter.

So, Food #1 was Corn and he ate a whole portion of it after very little convincing. Well, he’d been offered foreign foods like sausages in the past couple of days and corn was a vaguely familiar food so it was an easy one to start with. The only vegetable he usually eats are carrots, so it’s helpful to now have corn back on the menu.

With vegetable success with his first new (or re-introduced food), Food #2 was another vegetable – Tomato, well, Mini Tomatoes actually. At first he didn’t like the seeds and spat it out a few times before accepting the new food. He actually enjoyed them and has asked for them since.

Hooray – my fussy eater now eats carrots, tomatoes and corn thank you very much!

The next new food is actually a version of a food he does love, so it was really the concept (of eating burger patties) I was wanting him to accept in Food #3 – Salmon Patties. He LOVES smoked salmon – it’s a food I feed him once a week and he can’t get enough of. Knowing he loves salmon flavor, I transformed a tin of wild salmon into salmon patties (recipe to come soon!) and presented them to him in a Bento Lunch, along with an apple with an airplane cut out of it, corn, tomato and a little star cup filled with vegetable soup (which he didn’t touch!).

He begrudgingly took a tiny bite of a salmon patty but was NOT impressed and refused to eat anymore of it. I was pleased that he at least took a bite, because just trying new foods is a huge step for him and I still rewarded him with a big tick for his efforts. (For the record Mr 2 and the rest of the family went crazy for the Salmon Patties, they were incredibly delicious… recipe to come soon!)

As with corn, Food #4 is also a once loved and now avoided food – cheese – a food that I have to spell in front of his brother because he runs to the fridge demanding a bowlful and that Mr 4 refuses point blank! Mr 4 used to love cheese in toasted cheeses but all of a sudden about 6 months ago he started to refuse them and hasn’t touched cheese since. So, I thought I’d just present a tiny bit of cheese to him in a Bento Lunch Box, with the hope that he would be enticed to try a bite or two of cheese. In actual fact he ate both cheese butterflies and asked for me to include cheese in his kinder lunches from now on… whoohoo!! This bento lunch box also includes popcorn, spinach leaves (which he refused to try, but he did allow them in his lunch box), tomatoes and dark purple grapes.

Of all the foods, Food #5 is the most ground breaking (for me at least) – Sausages! I have often attempted to serve Mr 4 sausages, because it’s a food that his brother adores and eats on a regular basis, but until this meal he has refused to try even the tiniest bite. I only serve them organic, no preservative sausages that are a good 80% Beef and include fermented rice in the ingredients, so it’s a food that I see as being nourishing for them and that Mr 2 enjoys at least once a week for dinner. On those evenings Mr 4 usually has Burger French Toast, which is also healthy and includes hidden red meat, though I’d always wanted him to openly eat red meat, even if it was in the form of sausages.

So – it took a number of nights of offering the sausages to him before he finally agreed to try just a little bit. The sausages were served in a muffin tin meal (above), along with 2 other new foods – tomato and corn and some banana bread and melon too. We broke a piece of sausage into the tiniest of bites and he very slowly put it in his mouth and chewed on it and proclaimed it to be “delicious”. It was as if I had won the lottery! Mr 4 openly eating sausages is such a momentous occasion that I did a happy dance around the kitchen and quickly rewarded Mr 4 with his 5th and final tick.

After dinner he was rewarded with his Lego Helicopter and quickly opened the box and started building his new toy. (with a little help from his Daddy) The Lego Helicopter has been played with constantly since then and in fact he has even asked if he can take it apart to rebuild again!

My key tips to getting a fussy eater to try a new foods (in addition to having a rewards system in place) are:

Consistency – it took more than a few attempts before he ate sausages, it was all about being consistent and not giving up!

Relaxed Attitude – a change in attitude really made the difference. Being relaxed at mealtimes meant he was relaxed and not under pressure to try new foods, they were there on his plate for him to eat or not ea.

Not getting emotional – in the past I would get frustrated and upset (and even angry) when he wouldn’t try new foods. I had to learn to accept that sometimes he won’t eat new food and it doesn’t help anyone for me to get upset.

Make it fun – after all, mealtimes SHOULD be an enjoyable time, when the family gathers around the table to share a delicious meal and conversation together.

The rewards system worked a treat – we now have 4 new foods that will be included in his weekly menu – Corn, Tomatoes, Cheese and Sausages. This will add so much variety to his meals, especially with packing his lunch for kinder as he now has new vegetables to include – plus Cheese!

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any tricks which have worked to entice your kids to try new foods? 

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  1. I definitely need inspiration for my fussy boys. We have also instigated a reward chart, a little differently though. Boy 1 is slowly trying more foods. I think part of the problem is he doesn’t want to “impress” me. We had scallops the other night and I asked him to try one – “I don’t like it” was his immediate response. My sister then also asked him and straight away he popped it in his mouth and now has admitted to “loving scallops”

    • How interesting! Yes, often it’s not the taste of the food but something else which will prevent them from eating. Mr 4 often says “I don’t like it” when he’s never even tried it!

  2. Oh wow, we are two peas in a pod you and I! I have a 5yo boy and a 3yo daughter. 3yoD will eat/try almost anything a coule of times before she decides she does or doesn’t like it. 5yoB incredibly fussy! (To the point that I once made lasagne and he told me he wouldn’t eat it because he didn’t like the sound of the name!). Like you, I have considered going back to study nutrition. Anyway, I spoke to a dietician friend of mine about 5yoB because his preferred diet basically consisted of bread (grain only), nuggests, fish fingers, chips, sometimes tomato soup, sometimes plain pasta, sometimes sausages and the occassional pea and carrot. He’s a healthy boy, good size and weight etc so no concerns there, but I do value good foods and want him to grow up appreciating a variety of foods and I refuse to cook seperate meals. Anyway, on the advice of the dietician we are to reward him with something non material – some QT family time. And 5yoB gets rewarded even if he just licks the food. He is told to smell it, touch it, kiss it, lick it. And if he licks it he gets rewarded with a family tackle (his choice, definitely not mine!), a game of guess who or us all building lego or the like. It’s been a huge success. He has since eaten (not only licked) fresh fish, little bits of chicken, a bit of meatball, spinach, brocolli and corn. I have gone from almost cyring at the table each night in frustration, to crying with pride. It will take a long time before he eats a good meal I’m sure, but I’m just glad he doesn’t hide under the table now when I dish up dinner!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Some interesting ideas there. It really is such a challenge, isn’t it! Sounds like you’re doing really well and that he’s thriving. 🙂

  3. Love all the Muffin Tin Meals! The apple airplane was really cute! Such a great way to get little ones to try new things.

  4. Just FYI: we thought my son was being fussy when he was 4, but thst was when his food intolerance started to show. So, a child may not be able to verbalized what is happening in his body, but knows that a certain food doesn’t appeal to him anymore. My son had a fructose malabsorption issue ( rare & odd to not be able to eat certain fruits of vegetable due to severe stomach pain & diarrhea) & a lactose intolerance. It took us 2 years to figure this out & lots of testing. So, his fussiness & his refusal to eat certain things all of a sudden was due to more an just behaviors.

    • Thank you for sharing. It’s definitely something to be aware of when a child all of a sudden shows signs of fussiness – to look at the whole picture and find if there is a biological reason for why they are avoiding certain foods. With Mr 4 though, he has been fussy since he was 6 months old and when he does eat foods he claims he doesn’t like he enjoys them and shows no sign of food allergies. (thankfully)

  5. Hi and thanks for linking to Tuesday Tots. Just letting you know that I’m featuring this post today on tuesday tots. You’re welcome to grab a featured button if you like. Congrats and thanks 😀

  6. Doesn’t it just figure that my fussiest eater is also gluten-free? Thanks for the great tips. I would love it if you visited my new Gluten-Free Monday party at and linked up this and any other idea you would like to share. I hope to see you there.