Force feeding and other strategies that don’t work

Most children have stopped being so “fussy” by age 5 – however a quarter of children need support to overcome their food aversions and they can survive on a severely restricted diet until their teens or even through adulthood.

Everyone has a few foods they avoid for different reasons – the texture, smell, taste or associations from childhood. Things that can affect challenging eaters can be sickness or reflux in childhood – putting them off textures, certain foods, or even the thought of eating. The fear of eating can develop into a phobia which can be made worse by well-meaning parents and carers who attempt to force feed or starve their child into eating a food rather than making the food accessible and mealtimes relaxed. Introducing new food gradually, consistently and gently is much more effective and that’s why Little Bites strategies are so effective.

Strategies that can affect challenging eaters negatively:


  • Eat it or starve

A lot of my clients tell me they’ve tried eat it or starve and all that happened was that the child lost a lot of weight. This is common with children with food aversions and a severely restricted diet as the fear of trying a new food seems worse to them than the hunger. The feelings ‘eat it or starve’ can bring up can actually put the child off trying more food in the future.


  • Sit there until you’ve finished what’s on your plate

This standoff usually happens around dinner time, although I’ve heard of childcare staff using this strategy. Usually, all that happens is that the child becomes overwhelmed and upset and resents trying new food, learning that new food is something stressful and to be feared. When this is carried out at dinner, kids either go to bed hungry, upset and resentful and the parents go to bed wracked with guilt!


  • bargain with/bribe them: get kids eating vegetables, dinner and healthy food and loving it!

If you bribe them with lollies and ice cream you’re effectively teaching that they need to eat the “yuck” food before they get the “yum” food. For kids with a severely restricted diet, that reinforces the expectations they have (that it’s going to be disgusting) and they won’t grow to like it. As soon as you run out of ice cream they’ll stop eating the balanced diet. Little Bites helps to form good healthy eating habits in a fun and motivating way so your child gets exposure to healthy food and can learn to love it!


  • Force-feeding or yelling (or even sobbing on the kitchen floor)

Anxiety will not let them enjoy the food, it will give them negative associations with it and they could become even more determined not to try it next time! Relax, follow your Little Bites steps and meal times will automatically become more fun and stress-free! Check out these testimonials to see how other families have overcome their food battles.