6 things you should NEVER say to a challenging eater

There are some things that will just reinforce your child’s attitude that new food is the devil! After all, how we talk to kids about food becomes their inner voice. Here are some things you should never say to your challenging eater and why!


  • “EW!” or “really?!”

When your challenging eater asks to try something new you may be massively surprised but DON’T react with disgust or surprise; your reaction could change their expectaions (and make them think it won’t be nice) or make them feel under pressure (which will increase that mental block that we’re trying to overcome).

  • Just 1 cookie, dinner’s almost ready!

All kids are guilty of sneaking into the kitchen and trying to eat as much as possible before dinner. “Just a bit of fruit/cup of milk/one biscuit!” Yes, they’re hungry but that’s why you’re making dinner and if they eat now they won’t be hungry for whatever you’re busy slaving over. If they fill up on milk/juice/fruit or anything else the chance of them even tasting something new drops right down.

OK, so I actually suggest to clients that when their child is climbing the cupboards before dinner was a good time to try out their strategies but he’s not going to overload on his new healthy food… and if he does I don’t think his mum will be complaining!

  • “Finish what’s on your plate”

This sounds perfectly reasonable but often parents put portions that are too big for kids little tummies. How often have you been in a restaurant and had a massive portion and you finish it even though you’re forcing it down by the end? That’s because a lot of us still listen to that little voice saying “finish what’s on your plate.”

It’s better for kids to listen to their stomachs about when to stop eating and then sit at the table until everyone else is full up too. It’s better to avoid a battle of wills at dinner time and get them to help serve up their own portion, making sure that they have a little bit of what you want them to eat. That way they get to finish more often due to smaller portion sizes and you can always ask if they want more of anything. They’ll feel a bigger sense of achievement and you will be happier too.

  • “You’ll like it”

You can’t guanrantee that – a child needs to try new food over 10 times before their taste buds decide whether or not they like something. If you promise them they’ll like it straight away you’re setting yourselves up to fail. Also it’s important to keep them trying little tiny tastes until they get used to the tastes and textures instead of giving up at the first nibble. If you’d like to find out more about how Little Bites does this book a free initial consultation here.

  • “No pudding until you’ve finished your vegetables”

I prefer “if you’re still hungry you still have food there, if you’re full you won’t be needing pudding”.  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. 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. Just make sure you’re giving them a manageable amount  – not too much to start!

  • “Just eat it”

I often get clients who tell me that their children are really enthusiatic cooking dinner togethehr, promising they’ll try something new… then dinner time rolls around and it all changes! This is because while a lot of children would like to be able to eat new food they have to change their mindset first. They just need that bit of help to overcome it and that’s one of the things that Little Bites can help with! Making a child feel forced will increase anxiety and that will not let them enjoy the food. It will give them negative associations with trying food 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.