Food Phobia or a ‘Challenging Eater’ ?

We are delighted to bring you an occasional series of articles from Kathryn Mewes, the Bespoke Nanny, who provides a service to help parents/carers to ask “Am I doing the best for my child and my family?”  This month’s article deals with the issue of food phobias and challenging eaters.

Food Phobia or a ‘Challenging Eater’ ?

I have recently worked with a school aged child who has very strong food phobias. This case study caused me to recognise the extreme difference between a child with a phobia for food and a challenging eater.

It is very apparent when your child has a phobia for food:

They will have an inability to swallow for fear of choking


Certain food smells and textures will cause them to feel nauseous or even vomit.

There will, more often than not, be a fundamental reason as to why your child has a fear of food. In the case I have just worked on this boy has a condition which relates to reflux which he has had from birth.

‘Why won’t you just eat!?’

Now, as you read this, the chances are that your child does not suffer from a phobia of food.

It is more lightly that your child is between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. This is when children generally ‘challenge’ you with their requests for food types.

You will find that your child is lightly to:

Eat some of his meal but you feel it is never enough.
He will continually ask for snacks and fill himself up on these.
He will tantrum at a meal time and leave the table having not eaten.
He will fill up on desserts rather than eating his main meal.

I believe that it is fundamentally important that you continue to give your child a variety of foods and not just ‘home in’ on what they will eat. Eg: sausages, pizza, chicken nuggets and chips.

Over the years I have found that many children I have met require guidance and help with their diet. We are, in general, creatures of comfort who do not like change. Children are no different, they want to stick with what they know.

An activity which builds on a child’s understanding and enthusiasm for food is for you to prepare meals and cook with them. Children become fascinated when they see how an egg reacts when you place it in a frying pan, or how vegetables can be chopped in a magi mix.

When a child feels that they have played part in creating the main family meal they will often eat it.

Here are a few pointers that can help you with the encouragement of feeding your child.

Encouraging your child to eat.
Sit and eat with your child. Preferably the same meal. Even if it is a small portion.
Give your child a small portion. Do not overload their plate.
Make sure the food is nice and warm. (Obviously not if it is salad or a sandwich!)
Create a nice atmosphere with music, a candle lit (where safe to do so).
Make sure there is something on the plate (s)he likes. It is not an entirely new meal.
Praise them with their efforts but do not go overboard.
Be pleased if they manage half of their meal.

Create a sticker chart to encourage them to remain seated at the table.
Discuss food with them. Look at recipe books together.
Encourage your child to help with the preparation of the food, e.g.: buttering the bread

or chopping mushrooms.

I think that the most important factor is that you do not allow meal times to become a ‘battle field’.

Remain consistent with your behaviour.

Continue to give them a variety of food.
Explain to them as to how not every meal can be a favourite.
A small amount eaten allows a small dessert. (Larger amount eaten, larger dessert.)
Do not give an alternative meal. This is a slippery slope which will lead to your child having a limited diet.

I have a man in my life who has a very limited diet due to dictating to his parents what he wanted to eat. This has proved restricting and difficult socially at times.

I would not wish this on any child.

For the full story please read my blog at

Please think of the long term gain of introducing your child to a variety of foods.  The easy option in life, is rarely the right one.

If you would like help and guidance with any challenges you have concerning your child’s diet please do not hesitate to contact me. My details are on my website at

This article was written by Kathryn Mewes, the Bespoke Nanny.