Fussy Eaters: Born This Way Or Made This Way?


I have to confess: I have two fussy eaters.

With the prevalence of political correctness dictating that children should be eating only healthy nutritious food items, this can be a somewhat embarrassing predicament for parents who’s kids are fussy eaters – in other words, if it’s not bread, pasta, rice, chicken nuggets or processed foods (ie. biscuits, crackers, chips and cheese) then they don’t (won’t) eat it.

But are we to blame? Or are fussy eaters born this way?

Personally, I’ve never been one to pick up a chicken drumstick and chew it, I avoid marinated ribs because they’re too messy and I was often teased for eating a cream donut with a knife and fork to avoid the mess (yes, that actually happened!). So kids and BLW (baby led weaning) or kids and fruit or messy foods in general were my worst nightmare. When the boys were little I would go to painstaking lengths to keep things from getting too messy. I did a lot of spoon feeding and feeding fruit in little net pouches. I wasn’t the mum giving a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese and letting them go to town on it that’s for sure! Occasionally they got some chocolate or cake on special occasions but that was about the extent of the mess I allowed. Call it a bit of OCD or a strange phobia, I had a weird affliction to the mess food can make.

Then there is my husband. He doesn’t eat fruit. That’s right. No fruit. NO FRUIT AT ALL. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are fruits he hasn’t even tried. Like all stone fruits except perhaps tinned peaches and um, pretty much everything else! Except grapes and he only just tried those last year. And he’s never tried a strawberry. Ever. He says it’s the texture but as we all know, different fruits have very different textures! But no, to him fruit is just plain yuck.


Except fruit bursts (lollies) which are not fruit but rather they’re little balls of fruit flavoured sugar. For some reason these are delicious.

Go figure.

In any case, the kids never saw him eat fruit (because he didn’t obviously!) and because I work full time I tend to keep my fruit stash at work and so I was (and am) guilty of never really having a lot of fruit in the house. Given that kids learn from example, this was a mistake because clearly I never led by example. We had mashed bananas and apples in their weetbix (spoon fed of course!) and I’d make them apple and peach crumble with custard and the likes, banana muffins but never just fruit. I tried with them but Cohen has a thing with textures and Finn declared he didn’t like it. I also have to admit I was terrified of choking when they were little, so I avoided ever giving them things like apple or raw carrot until (surprise surprise!) it was too late and they wouldn’t even attempt to try it.

Finn will however eat every fruit known to mankind in a smoothie. Which is something right?!

As for the vegetables, they’re slightly better and have things like vegetable lasagne loaded with roast pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, onions and tomatoes for dinner. I make their weekly meals in advance and hide veges every which way I can in dishes that are easily freezable. But give it to them separately and they will not eat it. Like salads and the likes. Stir fry. Anything that is not disguised. This is bloody annoying (please excuse my language but it is really fecking annoying!). I’ve made a rod for my own back!

So what the hell do they actually eat?

Well, my 3 year old loves meat. He’s a real little man already! He’s my meat eater. Steak, schnitzel, corn beef, mince, sausages, chicken, fish – he loves it all. He also likes crackers, yoghurt, biscuits and pretzels (but not chips – weirdo). Oh, and chocolate! Which is unfortunate because he steals mine. And ice-cream. He’s obsessed with ice-cream.

I didn’t steal it, honest!

Cohen (my 4 year old) is my potato eater. Chips, fries, hash browns, roasted potatoes. He’s also my bread eater (crusts only – no I am not kidding! He eats the crust around the edge and leaves the soft bready middle, that bit that other fussy eaters like the best after they’ve pulled off their crusts and disposed of them on the floor). He devours pasta and rice but doesn’t like other vegetables or meat (unless disguised beyond recognition). Once we forced him to eat a pea and he power chucked all over my husband and the dinner table. Literally POWER CHUCKED. It was in equal measure hilarious and disgusting! And he likes biscuits. And chocolate coins but no other chocolate, only the coins.

Needless to say we have never attempted to force feed him again but I’m not adverse to bribes! Just last night I bribed him to eat fish for the second time in his life (freshly caught snapper from the day before, it was delicious!) and he did because I gave him a chocolate coin to do so. But nevertheless he ate it!

The boys kindergarten are well aware of our food issues, in fact getting Cohen to eat AT ALL is a challenge at kindy. Never has he been a child who would eat in social situations, he was always too busy to eat. At kindy we’re lucky if we get a biscuit into him (a home-baked one! Just to redeem myself a little here!). His sensory/food issues began as a baby though where he didn’t like to touch food and would ONLY eat off the spoon (I wonder where he got that trait from!) so we knew from an early age that he had sensory processing disorder to a small degree. Sand, water, grass – he had aversions to all these things at one time or another. Even now if he gets sand in his shoes or a drip of water on his clothing they need removing immediately so if a texture of food passes his lips that isn’t pleasing he will gag.

This he was born with.

Finley just declares things are disgusting and refuses to even give them a go. This is a personality trait I like to call ‘Stubborn little tyke who is being a fussy so and so’ (coming to a home near you!). This is probably partly my doing (too lenient, didn’t enforce the rules enough or give him the foods to try from the get go!) but is still 50% fussy eater syndrome for no other reason than ‘I don’t like it!’. Also known as ‘I don’t like the look of it and it’s green so it’s yuck and it’s a fruit so it’s yuck and I don’t want it but I’ll happily eat a bowl of Twisties thank you very much!’.

With Cohen I am obviously more sympathetic as it’s something that is clearly an issue for him but Finley is just playing us! I’m feeling pretty afraid that we have left it too late to change the road we are traveling down when it comes to food and the fuss factor. Let me tell you, it’s no fun! However here are a few things that might make you feel a little better about things.

Facts on fussy eaters:

  • As many of 20% of children between 2 and 5 can be neophobic (which means they have a fear of trying new foods).
  • Nearly 40% of kids under 6 are fussy eaters
  • A study has shown that for 72% of children’s picky eating comes down to genes (that’s right, picky eating is in fact inherited from a parent!) and only 28% of them are picky due to the environment (ok, so totally blaming my husband for this!)
  • Children need to be offered the same food 10-15 times before they will eat it (never had this problem with biscuits!)
  • Some picky eaters are just after wanting to be in control (never would have guessed a toddler would like to be in control! Who knew?!)
  • Infants have around 30,000 tastebuds spread throughout their mouths. By the time we hit adulthood, only about a third of these remain, mostly on our tongues. Yikes!
  • Most kids grow out of it by age 8 or 9 (thank god!)

So there you go! Genetics can be blamed in part for your fussy eaters! Some kids are certainly born with it and others (like my youngest!) are just being plain stubborn and unleashing their inner control freak. Yep, kids! Who’d have em?!

Are/were your kids fussy eaters? Are either of you fussy when it comes to food? What have you done about it?

Linking up with #IBOT @ Essentially Jess

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53 thoughts on “Fussy Eaters: Born This Way Or Made This Way?

  1. I don’t have fussy eaters. At least they’re not too fussy. My husband and I aren’t fussy (although I do have food sensitivities which makes me seem fussy at times). But my 16 year old has just become a vegetarian. That’s requiring a very different approach to meal times for this poor lazy cook.

  2. I am really lucky to have kids that eat just about everything. We are strict when it comes to food and my husband is better at enforcing it than me. They of course whinge every time I place dinner in front of them no matter what it is, but they do end up eating it. Even if I have to chase them around the house. They of course eat way too many potato chips and junk also. What really helped Miss Five and what may help your eldest is getting a food pyramid and putting on the fridge. They also talked about it at daycare and focused on sometimes foods and daily foods etc. Me on the other hand, I was an absolute ratbag when I was a kid refusing to ever eat meat. It drove my parents insane heheh 🙂

    1. A food pyramid sounds like a good idea, I’ll do that and talk to them about it but he is good at trying things, he just can’t swallow it. We don’t offer options so there is always something on their plate they will eat but I have yet to be able to force them to eat something (other than the pea and look how that ended!).

  3. My kids are all good now but they all went through a stage where they needed to ‘be the boss’ should I say and refused certain foods. I have always told my kids, some days you get your favourite meal at dinner time, others not. That is life and the sooner you realise I aint changing nothin, the better off we will all be (oops too harsh).

    1. No, that’s good Natalie! I’ve mentioned in other comments how we don’t cater to their wants but mostly Cohen just eats the potatoes and Finley eats the meat! Kinda dull really! LOL

  4. I think, in your shoes, I’d become a master veggie smuggler. My kids were a little fussy when small and let me tell you, there’s almost nothing you can’t hide grated zucchini and carrot in! I can’t get over your husband eating zero fruits- he is missing out on so much yum, not to mention the health risks associated!

  5. My 10 year old has only just begun to enjoy the humble cheese sandwich. He ate nothing but jam on bread, each and every day throughout primary school until this year. OMG! I am talking years of jam sandwiches here and one very stubborn child. Still, he’s tall and good at maths and has thrived regardless. I think kids eat eventually – even if it takes ten years to do!

    1. I can think of worse things he could survive on! My oldest won’t have ANYTHING on his sandwiches. Literally. If I put butter he won’t even touch it, it has to be plain bread or plain bread rolls. Does my head in but at least it’s easy I guess!

  6. My Little Miss has always been quite a fussy eater, but is slowly becoming more adventurous. She’s just started willingly eating salad veg which is some kind of miracle. Hust in time for my formerly good eating 2 year old to become Mr Fuss Pot! I think as long as you don’t make it a big issue they’ll grow out of the stage eventually 🙂

  7. Ha, compared to my eldest your kids are not fussy eaters, at all! He is next level fussy. But, my younger two are great eaters and the way they have been parented is exactly the same. So, I think its just the way they are. Plus my eldest likes to be in control, that has a lot to do with it.

    1. What will your eldest eat Claire? Funny how they can all be brought up the same and yet so different, like with Finn and his love of meat! I’ve decided just to pick my battles though, if they’ll eat vegetables in one way I’ll make that and not try and force things like salad on them, I just don’t have the energy!

  8. It’s fascinating watching our kids develop their own likes and dislikes, and seeing how they respond to new situations and stimuli – it can also be infuriating and worrying, but nonetheless it’s fascinating! My kids are good eaters, but it could easily have gone the other way. I was the same regarding mess, couldn’t stand it, so I don’t think my kids had as much chance to experiment with food as some do. Still, I try to be cool about letting them taste, touch or smell a food and then leave it and it seems to be working, as over time they get more interested and then just eat it without a fuss. My four year old is more inclined now to say she doesn’t like something, but she will usually eat it in the end. And besides, we all have textures, smells and tastes that we don’t like!

    1. That’s a great way to look at it Emily, I’ve been making an effort to eat more fruit at home and the other day my 3 year old surprised us by picking up a banana, peeling it and eating two bites. He said it was yummy too! I nearly yelled it from the rooftops!

  9. I was fussy as a child. I look back and cringe. We serve our kids one option for dinner. They can eat it or not. After a few nights they generally cave in and at least try it. Their favourite meal is actually a meatball noodle dish I make that has two whole chillis in it! Go figure.

    1. So do we Em! One dinner and if they don’t eat it they know they don’t get anything else so they always eat some but not the veges! Basically Cohen eats the potatoes/pasta/rice and Finn eats the meat!

  10. Hehe – I’m glad to hear of another anti-food mess person! I unintentionally trained my kids to make so little mess with their food and other things that when they first started childcare the carers there specifically did mess training with my twins! They said my twins were the only toddlers they had seen who did finger painting so delicately with one finger so as not to make a huge mess! Needless to say I never gave my kids bowls of spag bol to hand feed themselves as toddlers either!

    1. That’s so funny Ingrid! That would so have been me too and Cohen is the same, hates mess but Finn would pour the paint over his head, rub it all over his body and then roll in sand and not give two hoots! Haha.

    1. That’s the total opposite to my boys Lu, if I combine all the veges together into one big mash of vegetable goodness (ick!) they’ll eat it but give it separately and no siree! Loved the comment ‘one big ball of fussiness’! Haha.

  11. Every time I complain about the fact that one or the other of the girls won’t eat something my Mum takes great joy in reminding me of the fact that I pretty much ate nothing but devon and cheese sandwiches from the ages of 3 to 5. With the exception of hot chips and chocolate, that’s pretty much all I ate. I was also quite fussy beyond that and well in to my teens, however once I hit my 20s it was like I became a different person, food-wise, and now I’ll give anything a go once, something that still surprises my Mum no end!

    So with that in mind, I try not to worry too much about what the girls will or won’t eat and just go with it, hide the veggies where I can, we have lots of “special ham” and insert-colour-here chips and basically rebrand anything I want them to try with a name that is close to what I know they like. Pretty soon my eldest won’t be fooled by this, but I take great heart in the fact that they will most likely grow out of it and won’t die from nutrient deficiencies in the short term!
    Kylie Purtell recently posted…Taking Stock {February 2016} | LifeMy Profile

    1. You sound like me on the disguising Kylie, I just try to get as much in them as I can and not worry too much about what they won’t eat until they’re a bit older and I can rationalise with them a bit better. I can hardly force them if they’re gagging though, clearly that goes beyond simply being fussy! What’s Devon?

  12. I’m a fussy eater — I hate it when I get invited out cause half the time I won’t eat. It’s very annoying.
    One of my kids is the same, but she is better than I was at her age and will also eat stuff I won’t touch. The other’s have had fussy moments but are generally ok.
    For me, I hate being fussy, so I really don’t want my kids to go down that road. Having said that, I don’t want them to be miserable at meal times either, so I try to find a balance.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…Writing Prompt: When Celebrations Go Wrong #IBOTMy Profile

    1. Interesting Jess! What won’t you eat? Again, that’s much like my husband who is fussy on quite a few things whereas I will pretty much eat anything put in front of me (unless it’s super spicy!). It can’t be much fun as an adult being fussy but I guess if you don’t like something then you don’t like it! I’m sure you’d be old enough to know by now 😉 Unlike my Finn who just doesn’t like it cos he can.

  13. My kids are pretty good eaters, although my 15 year old daughter has never eaten eggs or mushrooms, never even tried them, but says she doesn’t like them. My son will eat just about anything, but has recently decided he doesn’t like chicken (?!?). This is proving very challenging when we usually eat it 2-3 per week! I love my kids, I love my kids …. 🙂
    Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject recently posted…9 ways to ignite your Journal WritingMy Profile

    1. That would be challenging, there are so many ways to eat chicken and it’s healthier than most other meat options! Rough one! Your daughters aversion to eggs and mushrooms sounds like my husbands aversion to fruit and mine to tea. Just the smell of tea alone will make me gag.

  14. Yep, blame it on the genes. I blame everything on the genes ;). I am one of those lucky people who doesn’t have a fussy kid. Well, he has his moments with food, but if I persist he always comes around. And it’s funny because there are some veggies and fruit he won’t eat, and it was the same stuff I didn’t like when I was little. So yes, the genes are definitely to blame!
    Kelly recently posted…THE 5 TYPES OF VALENTINE’S DAY PEOPLEMy Profile

    1. I eat everything so I’m definitely blaming this on my husbands genes! Well, everything except Brussel sprouts, but come on, who actually eats those?!

  15. My Esther was very fussy. She was fabulous at eating all sorts of fruit and veggies as a baby and then at 10 months she refused to be spoon fed and so I would cut up her food in front of her and she wouldn’t eat any of it. I resorted to putting cheese and biscuits to ensure she had something in her tummy. Now at 5 she understands which foods are good healthy foods and which ones are sometimes foods. She gives things a go and has surprised me to eat more than her non-fussy sister who has now followed her sisters’s footsteps. I always celebrate a win with veggies. So far they like carrot and avocado.
    Bec Senyard recently posted…Three Ways to Wear Black Ankle BootsMy Profile

  16. Mine have always had fussy phases and they come and go from preferences. In fact they’ll regularly declare something to be their favourite food ever one day and then tell me they hate it the next. That’s kids experimenting! But you are right, there are certain foods I still don’t like and I’ve tried them plenty of times. I guess there is a bit of nature and a bit of nurture involved!

  17. That’s a tough one Haidee, I can relate on some levels, but in general, my girls are pretty good eaters, good as in eating enough veggies and they actually love fruits. What I do is, I always have raw cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and such cut up on the table with lunch or dinner. They like grabbing it and dipping it with guacamole or something similar. We also have the “must-try” rule at home.
    Katrin recently posted…Simple Spring Cabinet TopMy Profile

  18. When my eldest was a toddler he would eat just about anything you gave him, we had no issues with his eating at all. When my secomd was born 5 years later things couldnt have been more different, fussy to the max. He wouldnt eat ‘mixed up meat’ that is sausages, burgers or any minced product. He liked raw carrots or raw runner beans only, but thankfully also loved fruit (never cooked).
    So I have to conclude from my kids that it is not a learnt thing, but skmething unique to the child. #WayWow
    Tracey Abrahams recently posted…Mummies Drinking Song (to the tune of Tub Thumping by Chumbawumba)My Profile

  19. It’s nice to know we’re not alone! I have one kid who’s a proud eat everything guy but his brother is a nightmare. Peanut butter and jam sandwiches every single day including Christmas. He actually cried when I gave him french toast for breakfast. Ugh! So glad they grow out of it!

  20. Glad you have a sense of humour about your fussy eaters at least! I have a 15 month old who I thought was fussy for a long time, turned out he just didn’t want to be spoon fed by Mum. Since we switched to finger foods he’s a million times better, except for vegetables. I’d also read children might need to be given a food up to 15 times before they’ll try it, but I’ve been giving him vege mix twice a day for about 6 months and he’s never had a bite. (He’s tried, but it makes him gag!) I’m totally with you on not doing finger-fed bolognese, nothing saucy at all.

  21. Haidee, huge kudos to you. We have a son that doesn’t like turkey or chicken and a daughter who is vegetarian, and then my gluten issues. We have a hard time too, trying to make dinner for everyone is an Olympic feat! But it sounds like you have it much harder. Thankfully they all have things that they do like, that would make life even harder, but to have a child choose not to eat if you don’t have the right things? Girl, you impress me. You should be wearing a Gold Medal for figuring this all out and working with it! Hopefully as they grow it will get better, and that you don’t die of dietary boredom! LOL You need to treat yourself after all this hoop jumping!

  22. The study leaves a bit to be desired from scientific merit basis but there are some great points. I am also a parent talk contributor and would love to chat to you more about fussy eating. I am a feeding therapy assistant and blog all about feeding kids. X Simone Emery

    1. Probably, I have to admit I just did some googling not knowing what I would actually find but found several articles on this one study so it fit! I’ll go and check out your blog, thanks!

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