Fussy Eaters - Are you helping or hidering? From lukeosaurusandme.co.uk
Family,  Family & Kids

Fussy Eaters: are you helping or hindering?

Hello everyone,

I’m back with a new question for you all about fussy eaters! It’s the big one:

Is hiding veggies helping or hindering?

I have been pondering this for a while – although hiding things like vegetables in pasta sauce is considered an easy way of getting your toddler to eat a balanced diet, does it really address the problem?

Fussy Eaters - Are you helping or hidering? From lukeosaurusandme.co.uk

Why do I have a fussy eater?

I suppose it would help us all if we knew why our children were fussy eaters in the first place?

Sometimes being picky and being a fussy eater is an act of independence in children. Like I have mentioned in some of my other Toddler In The Kitchen posts, toddlers and children love to have control of the situation – so why would they let you win by eating up their veggies?

Other times it’s the fear of trying something new. If you stop to think about it, it makes sense. Think about all the times you have prevented yourself from trying a new food (or trying something new in general), even in adulthood, because you have been scared to try it. Then put yourself in your child’s shoes – every day brings a new experience in their lives – whether that be something you’ve introduced or a new skill they’ve learnt.

Whatever the reason, it sure does worry us parents. It’s upsetting to have a food fight at the dinner table, the screaming and the tears and the hurtful words. It’s also stressful to throw away entire plates of untouched food. Are they eating enough and am I just throwing my money away right now?

Because of this worry, parents have adopted the “hiding” technique.

Hiding vegetables in your children’s food is a moment in every parent’s life. Do a quick Google search and you’re inundated with recipes toddlers will love that contain hidden ingredients. Pinterest boards are plentiful, and there are round-up blog posts after blog posts containing the best recipes to fool your children.

But even then it requires ninja preparation skills in the kitchen.

Blitzing and mashing and shooing your inquisitive toddler from the area in case they spy something remotely healthy near their food. Then, come meal time, there’s the moment of anxiety when the fork is lifted – will they notice? Is there going to be another tantrum, more tears?

It’s stressful! Surely it shouldn’t be this hard?

It seems like a stressful solution for a stressful situation – so surely it can’t be the only option.

Other parents prefer exposure to foods in their natural form.

By hiding food, are you really allowing your child the chance to enjoy food in its most natural form? And is it really going to do anything about fixing the problem?

My personal method to try and fight the fuss has been prolonged exposure to foods in their natural state, rather than trying to hide them. It’s a long process and if you’re hoping for an instant result – it ain’t gunna happen! But there are some real success stories about how presenting your fussy eater with food and just letting them get on with it has been the best thing possible.

After years of hiding vegetables in sauces I bit the bullet and started just putting it on his plate. After a week of exposure to cucumber he touched and smelt it, then with some gentle encouragement he tried a tiny bite. Now he eats a little at every meal. It’s a huge step forward. – Fussy Little Eater, @fussy_toddler

I have found that popping some new foods, or foods that your fussy eater would usually flat out refuse on the plate/table and not drawing attention to it is the best way to go with this approach. Give them a meal of something they would usually enjoy and just pop on the little extra. In my experience, fussy eaters will have a little feel and a taste when they think you’re not watching!  This, over a prolonged period of time, could be the solution to fussy eating.

But what about that middle ground: “healthy” junk food?

Where does the old “healthy junk food” fall into all this? You know, the homemade Nando’s or the chicken nuggets that you invest a lot of time into to ensure they look just like KFC’s?

Kids think they’re getting a little treat, but in fact, they’re getting a healthy, wholesome meal.

That, to me, seems like the best of both worlds. You can’t really fault it, can you? Your little ones are eating food that they enjoy and that is good for them. You haven’t spent an hour of your life boiling some carrots to death so you can chuck it in the blender and mix it in with some pasta sauce, you haven’t had to throw an entire plate of food in the bin and if you’re lucky, you may not have had to suffer any tantrums.

This whole fussy eating thing sure is a huge minefield and I am REALLY interested in what you have to say!

Leave a comment below with your opinion on the matter and if you give permission, I may end up using your quote (and blog/twitter handle) in my future Toddler In The Kitchen posts! I want to know if you have found hiding food to be an absolute life save, or if you are strictly an exposure to food kinda person, or if you think you have the perfect balance between the two! Please do let me know!

Note: I am in no way saying a certain method is the RIGHT method to use. All kids are different, all parenting is different and I am in no place to tell anyone how to live their lives or feed their children!

Rachael is a 31 year old mum to 10 year old Luke and 5 year old Oscar. She lives in England and writes about family life, crafts, recipes, parenting wins(and fails), as well as travel, days out, fashion and living the frugal lifestyle.


  • Annabel (Tickle Fingers)

    Great post, lots to think about. As you know I think exposure is the way to go and getting them involved in food preparation can really help with that.

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      Thanks, Annabel. 🙂 Obviously Luke is in the kitchen with your book and doing great, so I am definitely a fan of exposure. I’m interested in what other people think about it all, it’s a subject people tend to avoid! xx

  • Anita Cleare

    I definitely chose the hiding vegetables route. I still chop up the veg pretty small in pasta sauces and my youngest is now 12! But now their tastes are maturing and they are ready to experiment with food more and more and the older one is happy to eat things now that he would never have touched when he was younger, so I don’t think the ‘sneak-it-in’ approach was all bad. You might find some inspiration on fussy toddlers in my blog too: Toddler Food Battles: Six steps to stress-free mealtimes (http://www.anitacleare.co.uk/?p=269) X

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      I think at some point we all sneak in healthy foods or feed healthy food that the kids think are treats. I’m my oven right now are super healthy flapjacks that Luke loves and he always thinks he’s getting a little treat. It’s good your oldest has such a good relationship with food that he’ll touch things there’s no way he would have – it sounds as if your method worked well for all of you ! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by xx

  • Elaine @ Entertaining Elliot

    My toddler is a fairly good eater and I’ve never really needed to hide veg in his food to get him to eat it. I always try and give him different things but actually he really likes veg especially brocoli and carrots! Sometimes I give him something new and he won’t eat it but I don’t make a fuss, I just try it again another time. You know what toddlers are like, sometimes they won’t even eat their favourite meals if they are in one of those moods!! x

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      I understand completely, Luke loves bananas and sometimes when he’s in one of THOSE moods, he won’t even touch them. Toddlers are grumpy and I think sometimes just being in a general grump really effects whether they’re willing to eat or not. It must be nice not to have that stress about veggies though! I think we all get stressed and flustered, and though we all know not to show it, sometimes it all gets a bit too much! Thank you so much for stopping by, love the fact that your little boy is so happy with his food. 🙂 xx

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      Hahaha, I think this is possibly on the wrong post but I do know what you’re talking about! Thank you so much! xx

  • Harps

    Hey! I love this post – it’s the first time something or someone has made me even question it! Why do I hide vegetables?! I think I’ve gone with a dual approach. Now that Arj has had a taste for the “good stuff” (basically anything that isn’t a vegetable lol), he’s become fussier towards veg so I’ve ended up taking the hiding vegetables root. But I do sometimes try incorporate vegetables with some of his favourite foods so eg pizza bread (although the ratio of bread to vegetables is exactly equal!). Recently I’ve given him steamed vegetables with cheese but have found a lot of it ends up on the floor. I’m going to persevere though as I’m hoping he’ll learn that vegetables are fun (says she who barely eats any herself ) x

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      The good stuff! I like that , it does seem that as soon as things that aren’t strictly the healthiest of foods come into your little ones life, things do go a bit squiffy. Definitely not a lot you can do about that though, other than persevere like you say. I think hiding veg is a natural thing, and also it’s just a normal thing in OUR lives; we have pasta sauce with mushrooms or onions etc in. Veg is an ingredient in loads of “adult” foods that’s hidden really. It’s an interesting thing to think about really, thanks so much for the comment , lovely xx

  • Emma Chanagasubbay

    Over the years I’ve had so many problems with getting mine to eat, tears, tantrums and stressed out parents all resulting in platefuls of untouched food.
    I used to prepare seperate meals for everyone in the hope they would all get a balanced diet. But a few years ago I stopped stressing, prepared the same food for us all and if it’s eaten, it’s eaten and if not there is no drama.
    Getting them involved in the shopping and food prep certainly helps and when they are older lists of there favorite meals before the food shop is a great help.
    I’ve learnt that they will eat when they are hungry and the less of a deal is made of it the better eaters they become.

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      That is pretty much my approach too. Toddlers seem to know when they’ve hit their calorie limit and definitely won’t eat once it’s been hit(besides sweet stuff!) so if they’re full up on milk or had a few biccies instead of a piece of fruit, you know it’ll be harder to get them to eat. The stress free, it’s no biggy approach has definitely worked with me but it does take a lot to stay composed sometimes. Thank you so much for stopping by xx

  • Lisa (mummascribbles)

    I thankfully at the moment don’t have a problem with getting Zach to eat vegetables! He will happily sit there scooping spoonfuls of carrots, peas and sweetcorn. Getting him to eat meat on the other hand…nightmare! Or pasta…he hates it. I don’t hide it though…if he doesn’t want to eat it then he doesn’t. The last few times I’ve made a beef stew, he hasn’t wanted any of the beef, spitting it out at the first mouthful (but eating all of the veg). The last time I made it, he ate three pieces of beef…progress! I’m making it tomorrow too so we’ll have to see how he goes with it! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      That’s great progress, you should tweet me and let me know how it goes! It’s great that he has no problem with the veggies, Luke is the same with meat or or the veggie alternative! Sometimes he will eat ham though….but the next day he’ll flat out refuse it! Thank you so much for hosting and thanks for stopping by xx

  • Nige higgins

    It can be very difficult to get toddlers to eat we have always just put it in front of them if they eat great if not well not to worry because just like us there are foods we don’t like good luck Thanks for linking up to the #binkylinky

  • Emily

    My friend who’s in her 40’s hides veg in her food for both herself and her boys! She’s not a fan of veg, but if she can’t see it, she’ll eat it! Luckily my girls love veg! Thanks for linking up with the #BinkyLinky

  • Debs @ Super Busy Mum

    Great post! I have a fussy eater and so far, NOTHING works so I am now leaving it upto time…and hoping it will start flowing my way and away from chicken nuggets and pork chops!! Thanks for linking up! #MMWBH

  • Ellie Robinson PATR

    I thought Charlie was becoming a fussy eater so we changed the routine. Now we all eat at the same time at the table and he eats so much more of his food. Also I keep giving him food hes turned his nose up to but not really tried, just like @fussy_eater he used to throw cucumber on the floor now he loves it. Perseverence is my advice xx

    • Lukeosaurus And Me

      Totally agree with you! 🙂 Perseverance and dedication are key and the rest all sort of falls into place eventually. Xx

  • Jayne Avery/Granny G-Nome

    I think a bit of each is the best approach. Exposing toddlers to food in it’s original form as often as possible is important. It is equally important not to make a fuss if they don’t/won’t touch it. It’s stressful for them and you. The more often you introduce them to veg etc the more likely they will be to eventually try some – their taste buds will develop and accustom as they grow. However, we all want to ensure our children eat a hearty meal so a bit of ducking, diving and dressing up the veg reduces stress and can be fun!

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