How To Help A Fussy Eating Teenager

Dealing with a fussy eating child is extremely stressful regardless of their age, however, when your teenager is a fussy eater it can be particularly frustrating.

Dealing with a fussy eating child is extremely stressful regardless of their age, however, when your teenager is a fussy eater it can be particularly frustrating.
When your fussy eater is little you always look to the future with hope. You know so many people who were fussy as children but who grew to be much more open-minded about food as they got older. When your teenager is still displaying huge fussiness around food it is difficult to feel that optimism.
Self-care is often bottom of the agenda for teenagers. They tend to go to bed too late, spend too much time on their phones and immerse themselves in media that does not promote a healthy mind. It is normal for a teenager to appear to be unmotivated, lethargic and even “lazy”. One of the tools that we like to use as parents in these times is to feed our children wholesome meals.
We may not be able to control how they spend their time and how organized they are but we feel better for getting a healthy meal “into them”. When we can’t do that it can feel as though we have been stripped of that tool in a sense. Food has huge healing properties and it, therefore, makes us feel better to know that we are nourishing our children in this way.
We know that they will have more energy, a better mood and even perform better at school when their diet is somewhat healthy. For this reason, it is a very tedious experience when trying to nourish a fussy eating teenager.

One of the main obstacles to helping a fussy eating teenager is the fact that they are so strong-willed. Teenagers do not like to be told what to do. They are on a journey of “self-discovery” and they want to be as independent as possible.
Unfortunately, what we deem to be care and love can be accepted as “nagging” and “annoying” and as a parent that is really difficult to accept. Trying to help our child to want to try new foods or change their diet is very likely to be met with resistance because it can come across as a form of control. Our children are perfectly happy to eat what they enjoy and, in their eyes, we should accept it and move on.

It’s far from that simple though unfortunately. We know too much about the way our children’s diets can affect their health and well-being and for that reason, we want to positively influence that as much as we can. Looking back now it was a lot easier when we could use fruit to create a funny face on a plate or grate vegetables into a meal without our young children knowing.
Teenagers are a lot more likely to notice these efforts and reject them immediately. This can also lead to conflict in the home which only adds another issue to the pot.

The truth is that so many teenagers do go on to have really healthy diets as adults so the important thing is that you don’t write your child off at this stage.
  • Continue to subtly offer different kinds of foods as often as you feel necessary but do not force the issue.
  • Praise your teenager for trying something new or for any healthier changes they make to their diet but keep it age appropriate. Clapping your hands and taking a photograph is likely to backfire. It may also come across as patronising.
  • Offer old favourites with new flavours and tastes a couple of nights a week but mix it up with enough meals that you know they will enjoy.
  • Just like with younger children try to encourage eating family meals together as it promotes a positive association with food and mealtimes.
  • Let your teenager make some decisions. Ask them for their input with the food shopping or with ideas for new recipes to try. They might just surprise you.
  • You absolutely CAN make a hidden vegetable pasta sauce or a creamy vegetable soup that is full to the brim with vegetables. This one is effective for all ages.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at


Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

Read more by Tracey
{{ post.excerpt }}
{{ post.content.formatted }}

What is Family Friendly HQ?

Family Friendly HQ is Ireland’s trusted parenting community, dedicated to mums and dads, and families of all shapes and sizes.

Read more about us