Breakfast is often a great meal for picky/fussy eaters. They have become hungry overnight (breaking the fast) plus the foods we offer frequently tick boxes.
Picky eaters prefer the expected and the uniform, which is why breakfasts are often a win. Many options are pre-packaged like cereal and so our child knows what to expect as they are the same day-in-day-out.
In my previous blog we looked at ways we could entice a picky eater to change up their cereal or toast. Making small changes is always advisable so we are not stuck serving the same thing over and over again, and they are not burning patterns that are challenging to shift.
Although toast and cereal are probably the most commonly accepted breakfasts, there are many other foods eaten by picky eaters and that we may be able to introduce.
I’m all for thinking outside of the box!!
Again, my favourite words of caution. Yes, what we serve is important, but there are many other factors that enable a food hesitant child to be able to eat a new food.
Although there are many suggestions below, our approach, the language we use, the dynamics around food and feeding and our child’s general level of comfort, will all have an impact on how readily they accept something.
Let’s look at some breakfast options and how we can present them to our children.
Many fussy eaters are okay with yoghurt for breakfast. If so, can we make some small changes to encourage them to accept difference – which in time, leads to new?
1. Yoghurt with additions. Are we able to sprinkle something small onto the yoghurt? Mixing is often tricky for fussy eaters, which is why it’s important to practice. Some sprinkles, some raisins, or some choc chips, for example.
2. Fruit. Even if we have a fruit eater, the more often we serve it, the more often it gets eaten. If our child is a ‘smooth’ only yoghurt kid, pieces of tinned, frozen, or fresh fruit that they put in themselves may be a win.
3. Parfait. Basically, a layered dish in a glass. The beginner’s version may be yoghurt with a crumble of a favourite food on the top. More advanced may be a layer of yoghurt, fruit, yoghurt, muesli, for example.
I love pancakes as a breakfast option. Plenty of protein and versatile as we can make different versions or use different toppings.
1. Traditional pancakes or crepes with flour, eggs, and milk. We can make big or small or even cut shapes with a cookie cutter. Toppings can be the usual like maple syrup, but there is no reason not to add yoghurt or peanut butter, depending upon our child’s tastes.
2. Different flours. We can keep the recipe similar but use oat, nut, chickpea or rice flour for example. Or a combination.
3. Adding fruit or vegetables. Pureed fruit or vegetable can be added to the mixture to create a green ‘Incredible Hulk’ pancake, or to increase the sweetness, for example.
4. Banana/egg pancakes. One ripe banana and two eggs makes a very sweet, but very quick and simple pancake.
If we have a child that is stuck on one food for breakfast, it’s advisable to introduce more, if possible. Perhaps that is via something a little different:
1. Croissants. I know many fussy eaters who are comfortable eating these.
2. Bagels, muffin splits, fruit toast – other types of bread-type foods.
3. Muffins. If we are concerned about ingredients, we can make great versions at home. Even chocolate ones can be nutrient dense and a reasonable breakfast option. Volume is a huge determinant of success, so beginning with mini ones or a quarter can be a good way to get buy-in.
4. Breakfast bars – there are many recipes for simple bars we can cook for breakfast. These are also a great option if we are dashing out of the door in the mornings or have a child that needs time and misses out at home.
Eggs, are often a definite yeah or a nay!
1. Dippy eggs. The classic soft-boiled egg with soldiers may be a good way to gain interest in eggs. Toast is often a favourite and we can dip for the teeniest, tiniest bit of egg.
2. Scrambled eggs. These can be cooked without milk so they are dry – which can be texturally easier for some children. Or, perhaps adding cheese, if we have a cheese lover.
3. Omelette. We can begin with a basic (or cheese if that’s a favourite) omelette. Later, it is possible to add small amounts of other foods without a big change in texture or flavour. Again, if it’s a new food, I’d be creating a very small portion size.
4. Fried eggs. Many picky eaters are okay with either white or yolk. If this is the case, I’d serve the preferred colour and have the other one available, should they wish.
5. Poached. We can cook foods in different ways to make it easier for our fussy eater. For example, a firm yolk may be easier for some children.
Pre-made meat products like ham, bacon and sausages are often a win for fussy eaters. If these are a big part of lunch or dinner and you do have limited options, I would leave them there.
If breakfast is a challenge, or we have a child stuck eating the same food day after day, then introducing change is important and this may be via a food like bacon or sausages.
1. Bacon. If it’s a win then can we make some small changes or combine with other foods? For example, adding it to toast or bread.
2. Sausages. If our child has a favourite brand are we able to offer slightly different versions? Can we add to other foods? Perhaps we can serve them differently? Sliced thinly and lengthways so they curl, in little rounds on a skewer. All changes are positive in showing our child that difference is okay.
Drinking is often easier than eating for picky eaters, which is why many fill up on milk when they are younger. Sometimes though, we can use this to our advantage and provide a nutritious morning boost.
1. Smoothies. If eating is a challenge in the morning, we may be able to swap in a smoothie. There are many different ways to make these so they tick boxes for our child. It is often easy to add nutrients to a thickened drink too.
2. Hot chocolate. If smoothies are a no, can we start with a hot chocolate. Gradually adding new ingredients to a familiar base can work.
3. Up & Go. I am not a fan of the pre-made varieties due to the ingredients, but a home-made one using either Weetbix or oat flour is a fabulous idea. I have worked with many families who have managed the switch.
If a parent asks me how to get more fruit eaten, my first suggestion is ‘serve it more often’. Even if we have a child who isn’t eating fruit yet, it would still be my advice.
For fruit eaters – the more frequently we have the opportunity to eat fruit, the more we will consume.
For non-fruit eaters – the more often we see something, the more of a comfort level we build with it and the more it seems to be ‘the thing to do’.
Suggestions for fruit for breakfast:
1. Have fruit on offer. For reluctant fruit eaters, dried fruit may be easier to begin with.
2. Add to cereal or yoghurt. Tinned or frozen are great options.
3. Add to toast, crumpets, or other favourite carbs.
4. Use a fruit compote or sauce. Making these can be simple and great fun.
5. Add into muffins or pancakes.
I know many fussy eaters who eat non-traditional breakfast items, which is fine. I thought I’d just list a few more ideas:
1. Hash browns. Crispy and fried, often an easier way to eat potatoes that are not hot chips.
2. Baked beans. These can be the simplest bean-type offering to introduce as they have the sweet tomatoey sauce.
3. Fried bread, tomatoes, mushrooms. Adding additional things to the frying pan to see what will be a win!
Of course, breakfast is whatever culturally a family feels appropriate, and a child feels comfortable eating. I know children who eat foods that are not top of most breakfast lists, but it is what they are able to eat.
Judith is mum to two boys and is the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
She delights in showing parents how to get picky eaters eating in simple, gentle, practical steps that anyone can master. She graduated from Cambridge University and has internationally certified qualifications in picky eating. She is also schooled in nutrition, parent education and is a trained telephone support worker for ParentHelpline. Judith is currently doing post graduate studies in Psychology as she would love to understand more of the “why” behind fussy eating and spearhead research in this area.
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