Tips for Fussy Eaters - Tasty Finger Food for Children

By Deena Kakaya •

Worried that your child is a fussy eater? You're not alone. Deena shares a story of how she turned around her young son's eating after being told he may never be interested in food. Read her top tips and also a delicious flavour filled recipe for baked spring rolls.  Great finger food for kids of all ages.  

We live in a culture where bigger is better and somehow, that has become a popular way of thinking when it comes to babies too. As I sat in a circle with other mums at a baby group with my little one on my lap I listened, 'mine is only 6 months old but wears 9-12 month clothing'. Her friend quipped, 'mine is  9 months old and wears clothes for 18 month olds as she eats loads and she even ate some of our pizza and garlic bread last night.'
I felt like I was doing my boy an injustice and I worried for his health. No matter which concoction of vegetables or fruits I offered him, he just would not open his mouth. I sang to him, sat him in the garden and even did messy play with food for him. I cut his milk back to trigger off more hunger, but nothing. When he was about 8-9 months old I sought medical advice and you know what they told me? They told me he would probably never be an eater, he would always be smaller than average and that he would just not be interested.
I took a deep breath and hushed the expletives roaring around in my head. How can they doom him to a life of food indifference with such conviction? I calmly and firmly told them that I was a very fussy eater as a child and now I am healthy, food loving food writer. 
I have learned a lot along the way to getting my boy interested in food. He now loves yoghurty dhal, dosa and spicy vegetable pasta dishes and spinach pizza. Here's some of the things that helped me:
1. I had an 'aha' moment when one of my friends pointed out that my boy was getting lots of lovely flavours of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian food through his milk from what I was eating. So then why would he want a boiled carrot.  Introducing flavour and spice in food helps to keep it exciting. Kids like flavour too.
2. Eating together as a family means that meal times are a fun and a sociable activity and my boy loves to join in. 
3. Variety. In the early days of weaning I would just give my boy his one bowl of food and if he stopped eating, I thought he was no longer hungry. However, what I found  is that smaller portions of a variety of items keeps the taste buds and mind stimulated and the tummy ends up fuller. It need not be laborious; I make home-made spiced and unsalted butter and spread it on seeded bread, for example.
4. Eating with other children is fun. I sometimes invite his friends over for pasta and veg with garlic bread. My boy loves to join in with his friends and especially with crunchy, spice and veg filled spring rolls.
5. Taking a picnic or a packed lunch for a day out makes for fun eating. Unravelling goodies whilst sharing special moments as a family is a delight that little ones will share too.
6. Sometimes, he is just not hungry and that's fine. We don't always eat three full meals. It's OK to take the pressure off and leave it until the next meal. 
My recipe works really well with my boy and his friends because these spring rolls are crunchy, packed with flavour and they are great hand-held treats for independent eating or eating on the go. Parents love them because they are baked and can be frozen, which is really handy for busy weekdays when you can just whip a few out and put them in the oven.  

Baked Paneer, Courgette and Sweetcorn Spring Rolls

Makes 30 
175g grated paneer
One medium-sized courgette, grated
100g sweetcorn
One medium onion, finely diced
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Use salt if your child is old enough to consume salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika 
Approximately 15 spring roll sheets, thawed if they are frozen 
1.  Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and ground turmeric. Once they sizzle stir in the paneer and courgette. Mix it all welling then add the sweetcorn. Mix again.

2. Sprinkle in the coriander powder, cumin powder and paprika with the lemon juice. Mix it all well.  Cook the mixture for 5 minutes before turning off the heat and allowing it to cool completely.

3. Cut the spring roll sheet in half, lengthways. Leave a 2 cm gap at the bottom of the sheet and level out one tablespoon of filling. Pinch the sides in and roll it tightly. Roll the rest of them up in this way.

4. Coat the spring rolls lightly with oil and bake at 180 degrees until they are golden brown.

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Deena Kakaya

Deena is a food writer with work published in UK magazines such as BBC Good Food, Delicious, Cook Veg and Fork. Her recipes use influences from throughout the world, often combining an Indian influence. They also happen to be completely meat-free. You can follow Deena on Facebook here. 

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