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Fussy eaters? Dr Pixie McKenna dispels the myths, and offers advice

We talk to television doctor Pixie about all things food, family and festive planning - do fussy eaters really exist?

Posted: 14 October 2016
by Catherine Hudson

Pixie McKenna: "you may need to offer a new food 10-14 times before they will actually taste it."

What has surprised you most about becoming a parent?

How utterly exhausting it is. It’s like having another job! It's made me sleep obsessed. It's also made me appreciate my own parents a million times more, not that I didn't already; I just don't think you quite understand the parent child bond until you become one.

What has been the most challenging thing for you?

Without a doubt it’s not sleeping. She wakes a lot but fingers crossed miraculously in the past few weeks we have been getting some sleep throughs! Food is also an issue - like many of her age group she’s had a fussy eating phase and like most parents I found it a bit of a milestone!

Have you had to adapt mealtimes since having a family?

I started off cooking lots of meals but now I’m a one dish diner - we all eat the same thing just in different sized portions. I’m really keen for family dining where at all possible as it’s a great time for kids to learn good eating habits and enhance their communication skills. It’s our little social time together - yes it can get messy and noisy but that’s the joy of having little ones!

Fussy eaters – do they really exist or is this just lazy parenting?

No, they exist - I have one! One in every three children go through a fussy phase, and while feeding your little one might seem the most natural and basic duty of a parent, it can be a battle. As a mum of a fussy eater, the nutritional concerns expressed by parents in the recent PaediaSure Shake study resonated with me.

It can also be frustrating, which is why one in four parents regularly give up trying to get their children to eat healthily. My advice would be to persevere - you may need to offer a new food 10-14 times before they will actually taste it.

What's your favourite activity to do with Darcy?

She loves the water so it's got to be a day at the seaside. She’s keen on boats so has her own kayak wetsuit and life jacket. There’s no stopping her she's fearless and never feels the cold!

Do you feel that being a GP makes being a parent easier or harder? Do you feel like you know too much?

People assume you know things, but I only know about things when they go wrong. Sure I can manage a sick child but the practical aspects of nappies, weaning, toilet training, tantrum management etc I very much learnt on the job! When my own child had her very first temperature I panicked, my professionalism went out the window and I went into parent mode.

Do you and your partner share the parental load?

Yes although I am definitely the soft touch. She can wrap me round her little finger.

Who takes the lead in feeding duties?

I would say me, he would say him. It is definitely ME! I always cook too much and offer too much – I’m a rookie mum but I’m learning. I do have a policy of removing the plate and swallowing my pride if she hasn’t swallowed my latest culinary creation!

How did you find weaning Darcy?

I arrived at the weaning stage rather abruptly and weaned earlier than the recommended 26 weeks. If I knew then what I know now I would have done it entirely differently, but I didn't. I took the best and the worst of everyone's advice and made some of it up as I went along.

Darcy is a good eater now but it did take her a while. She spent many months eating only baked beans and sweetcorn, but I think the important thing to remember is not to give up no matter how frustrated and stressed our little ones’ fussy eating makes us feel. There are loads of great practical resources out there if you look online. Persistence is key and fussy eating is a phase that many children will grow out of, be patient.

What would be your perfect day with your family?

It would definitely be a picnic at the beach. Lots of swimming and splashing and a serious amount of food! Dinky our dog would come too and swim alongside Darcy!

When was the last time Darcy made you laugh?

She makes me laugh every hour of every day, so I generally go to bed laughing and wake up laughing. She’s a huge character.

What will your be doing for Christmas? And what will your family be eating for Christmas dinner?

I’m an anti-turkey person! We usually have beef which I smuggle in from Ireland and Mitch cooks on our Big Green Egg barbecue - I know, crazy having a barby on Christmas Day but its tradition! My husband does the meat and I do the veg. It will be the usual suspects, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and then a whole host of potatoes. I like them mashed, boiled, sautéed, dauphinoise, and roasted so I will be dishing the lot. You would never guess I was Irish would you?! We are always at home for Christmas - otherwise how would Santa find us? We tend to do a mega lunch which renders us incapacitated in front of the telly by 6pm. Happy Days!

Dr Pixie is working with PaediaSure Shake highlighting the need for more realistic support for parents with fussy eaters. For more information, see PaediaSure Shake is available both in store and online at Asda and Boots and at

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