Fussy eating advice

What to do when your child won’t eat ‘wet foods’!

Do you have a child who wants their food dry and separate on the plate? A child who’ll happily eat sausages and chips for instance, but won’t go near a plate of pasta bolognaise? What can you do to get them eating ‘wet food’? Here’s my advice.

#1 Put ‘wet foods’ on their plate – whether they eat them or not!

Your child simply cannot become receptive to the idea of eating ‘wet foods’ unless they become familiar and comfortable with the sight of them on their plate! You only need to serve them a tiny portion at first – alongside their usual ‘reliable’ foods. A sausage next to a serving of pasta bolognaise may seem odd, but it doesn’t matter! (Worried they’ll have a meltdown if you do this?! Read about the ‘Magic sentences‘.)

#2 Don’t use divided plates!

Divided plates – you know, the type with compartments – train your child to see and want their foods separately. If you put the rice in one section and the chilli in another for example, it’ll be much harder to get your child to accept them served together. Instead, serve them on a regular plate – but begin gently: Put chilli over just a tiny part of their rice, serve a cottage pie ‘sideways’ so the potato topping falls next to (but still touching) the meaty bit. This way your child feels more in control – they can eat the rice but not the chilli, they can eat the potato but not the meaty part… (Read more about The dangers of divided plates.)

#3 Get messy!

For 2-5 year olds, this is an extra ‘boost’ to help get them over their psychological barrier to ‘wet foods’. Save some leftover ‘wet food’ from dinner and give it to them with some other foods (cooked spaghetti, rice, big handful of cereal…) plus a bunch of pots, pans, containers and kitchen utensils – and let them get stuck in. The enjoyment of mixing and messing with the ‘wet food’ creates pleasurable, positive associations with it. If you play WITH them for the first 5 or 10 minutes, this activity will be more powerful. And if you use what I call the ‘Sports commentator’ technique, even more so! You can read about this technique in Getting the Little Blighters to Behave

#4 Do some ‘wet cooking’ – but be careful how you do it!

Cooking with children is not a solution to fussy eating in itself, but it can have an impact – as long as you do it in a way that empowers your child and makes them feel ‘ownership’ of what they’re making. If you micromanage or they pick up a feeling that you’re pretending they’re helping but actually they’re not really helping at all, cooking with them could have a negative effect! (See Top tips for cooking with your fussy eater). It also really helps if you sometimes let them choose what they want to cook. Flick through a recipe book of pasta sauces or soups together (food doesn’t get ‘wetter’ than soup!) and let them have fun putting the ingredients in the blender and pressing the ‘whizz’ button! Even a two year old can do this. Then think up outside-the-box ways to serve these foods the first time. Have a candlelit dinner for your pasta sauce meal? Take the soup to the park in a flask alongside their usual snack rather than serving it for lunch at the table?

ABOVE ALL, never ever put any pressure on your child to eat – or even try! – the ‘wet food’. Not even gentle encouragement! That will backfire and undo all your good work!