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How the festive season can help get fussy toddlers trying new foods

In the run up to Christmas, it can be more difficult to maintain the usual food routine. That said, the festive season can work to your advantage in encouraging those fussy eaters in the family to explore their (slightly) more adventurous side.

Christmas is such a magical time for children, with lots of new experiences and a constant sense of excitement in the air (understandably so – Santa’s nearly on his merry way!) So, if you have a picky eater on your hands (and trust us, we’ve all been there) you can use this festive feel-good factor to encourage them to try new foods too. Here’s how:

A brimming buffet

The ‘terrible twos’ as they’re known can be a challenging time for parents and sadly food can be one of the main tantrum triggers. They start trying to assert their growing sense of independence and food is one of the easiest ways for them to take control; point-blank refusing what you’ve cooked up and put in front of them.


But the Christmas buffet could be your secret weapon! Allowing them to serve themselves (with some help from mum and dad for younger children), foodie spreads offer a more relaxed, informal setting which can be empowering for fussy eaters. You get to choose a selection of healthy, nutritious foods and your toddler gets to make the big decision about which ones to eat. Cold turkey, poached salmon, crudité and dips, breadsticks and cheese are all great options.


Christmas canapes

Kids often love to eat with their fingers, so canapes are the ideal bite-sized meal for tiny hands. More manageable mouthfuls are also less overwhelming for a small child. Serve some toddler friendly canapes with your pre-dinner drinks such as  Annabel’s tear ‘n’ share Christmas Pizza Wreath or simple yet effective Cheese & Cherry Tomato Christmas Tree.


Give food a merry makeover

Rudolph Baked Potato Recipe Image by Annabel Karmel

If there’s ever an occasion to make food look as good as it tastes it’s Christmas! Kids eat with their eyes so why not decorate baked potatoes or mini burgers to look like Rudolph with a cherry tomato for the nose and pretzels or twirly crisps for antlers. They can help you with this too – get them to work decorating Festive Puff Pastry Pizzas with healthy toppings.


It goes without saying but decorate the table with whatever looks bright and colourful – the more interesting the spread looks, the more your toddler will be drawn to it.

Get crafty in the kitchen

Christmas is a time for crafting lots of festive creations in the kitchen, so why not get them to join you? Getting children to take an active interest in what they’re eating is essential for their general health and wellbeing, plus they’ll be more tempted to give something a try if they’ve helped prepare it. Task them with assembling Annabel’s Kiwi Christmas Tree for a healthy Christmas dessert or topping their own Festive Faces Porridge.


Make a game out of trying new foods

‘Tis the season for Christmas party games! Why not try a bit of festive food trivia with your little ones? Try playing a game and blindfold each child before introducing a food and ask them to guess what it is. Giving them facts is likely to make them more interested about what they are eating. Give them hints with a festive twist e.g. if carrot is part of your trivia game you could give them a hint of ‘this is Rudolph’s favourite snack’ or clementine segments could be ‘Santa brings this in your Christmas stocking’. Making trying new foods fun will work wonders.


Healthier festive treats

Finally, we all know that at Christmas there are lots more temping treats around and children will likely favour a chocolate Santa over a piece of fruit for example. Treats are allowed (it is Christmas after all!) but make sure you have a good range of different foods on offer and a supply of healthy snacks on hand. Try Annabel’s Strawberry Santas or North Pole Penguins which are great recipes if you’re looking for a combination of festive fun with a healthier take on the Christmas treat.


For lots of great recipe ideas for the whole family head to our Christmas Recipe Hub.

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