Child Won’t Eat Meat

Child won't eat meat 21
Child won't eat meat

Child won’t eat meat. Don’t panic.

When it comes to meat, many fussy eaters will not eat it, despite the family’s food culture. Meat provides easily absorbed iron, which is often low in fussy eating children.

While children can get the nutrients they need thanks to a range of other foods, this blog is about understanding what is getting in the way of your child eating meat.

Is it about the child’s eating skills? Is it about the sensory qualities of meat? I believe it can be about both, because as I have written here, when chewing skills are lagging for whatever reason then children are not going to tackle challenging food and vice versa.

Here we consider three key issues about meat, bearing in mind that children may struggle with all three!

Child won’t eat meat: Three reasons.

When your child won’t eat meat and it is part of your family’s normal diet, you will have concerns in respect to whether you can overcome their reluctance to eat this key source of protein. Developing an understanding of the effects that smell, taste, and texture of meat can have on a child, may be useful to help your child overcome any aversion to meat.

Smells of meat

I am thinking of this lamb dish with beans my mum brought over to my sister at the worst possible time: my sister was undergoing chemotherapy. Lifting the lid of this dish, which would be delicious in other circumstances came with a shock! The smell was an immediate put-off for my sister. The smell of meat (cooked or uncooked) can put off sensory-sensitive people and children!

  • It is best to cook meat while the children are around in the kitchen, so the smell does not go from 0 to 100 in seconds as you lift the lid, or come into the room,

  • older children can learn to operate the exhaust fan and solve smell issues,

  • you can also cook and eat meat outside,

  • marinade, spices and herbs, acids (such as wine or vinegar), sauces, or the cooking method can alter or mask the smell,

  • fats can be trimmed off so the oxidation due to cooking does not increase the game-like odour.

Tastes of meat

Meat has different tastes, lamb can be strong, pork is unique, beef and chicken are more neutral. Some children are going to be struggling with this. Typically, they are the children who will:

  • Lather their meat with a sauce such as ketchup, in a bid to even up the taste. All meats can therefore be served with dipping sauce or cooked with a liked flavour such as peanut butter or honey-soy.

  • Meat combination with cheese such as parmesan may help, think of meatballs or chicken parma.

  • Garlic powder, familiar fast-food brand seasonings may also help children who are comfortable with or enjoying those types of flavours.


Textures of meat

Meat has different textures. Tougher textures such as in red meat require a degree of chewing and grinding, meat can also be fibrous.

  • Some children simply do not have the skills to jump to eating meat that is either tough or fibrous. A steak is harder to manage than minced meat. Lamb roast (soft and fibrous) or a pork chops (dry and fibrous) require a substantial amount of masticating. It is best to assess where a child is at and start there. Perhaps this means offering chicken (a softer meat), a quality ham, meat patties, meatballs or sausages. Assisting children where necessary to cut meat to a manageable size is essential: most likely you will have to start small (shredded, shaved, minced, crumbed).

Child won't eat meat - small meatballs on skewers

  • Overly sensitive children may already have gravitated to chicken nuggets. You can see why: the bite is crunchy, and the filling is soft and even. There are no surprises, in taste nor texture, no bits that pop up on the tongue. There is limited ask on the child as they chew to form a bolus and swallow. The trap of course is that parents keep offering this nutritionally poor food item (0.6 mg of iron/100g as opposed to 1.2mg/100g in the chicken leg) repeatedly.  See my recommendations for making homemade chicken nuggets. Overall, you may offer meat that is less dense by flattening it out, and crunchier by overcooking it, or processing it with bread or cheese-like those juicy meatballs. You may develop a range of crunchy meat recipes using crumbs in the mix or as a coating. It is key to develop a meat repertoire and keep serving it regularly. See this recipe for crumbed chicken tenderloins.

Child won't eat meat -tenderise or flatten it


Child won’t eat meat: Moving on from chicken nuggets

If your children only eat chicken nuggets, it may get harder for them to accept any other meat. While it is best you keep offering all the meat you cook, it may pay to start making your own version of chicken nuggets. I recommend using the darker bits of chicken, so the nuggets have more heme iron and overall nutrition. You may tweak this recipe until you get a satisfactory result. Making chicken nuggets may be your way out of them! At the right time increase their density i.e. make them less smooth.

Child won't eat meat - making meatballs

You will need:

  • Chicken legs de-boned, cut in small cubes, 200g, and processed if you need the texture to be smoother.

  • salt, pepper, msg (optional but imperative to get closer to commercial nuggets)

  • flour, 1 cup

  • cornflakes crushed 1/2 cup

  • baking powder, 1/2 tbsp

  • 1 egg beaten lightly

  • salt

  • turmeric

 Let’s do it

  1. Place chicken in a food processor with salt and msg, process until smooth, or adapt textures to coarser if your child an do it.

  2. Prepare 3 plates:

    1. Mixed flour, baking powder, optional garlic powder, turmeric

    2. beaten eggs

    3. cornflakes crushed

  3. Shape chicken balls using your hands, (children participating is of course even better), roll in mix 1, and work into a preferred nugget shape.

  4. put through egg mix

  5. then coat with cornflakes

  6. cook in oven or airfryer for about 10mins at 180C, depending on how big your nuggets are.

  7. Serve with favourite sauce and a family meal.

In my experience, a child who won’t eat meat, also often refuses fish. They may just get sufficient iron through grains if they also eat plenty of fresh fruit. When children also eat limited grains and sources of Vitamin C, Iron becomes a concern. Vit C is necessary to the absorption on non-haeme iron.

Child won’t eat meat.

If the suggestions in this blog don’t help, and you are concerned about your child’s nutritional intake due to lack of meat in their diet, book a Free 15min assessment of your Child’s Fussy Eating here.

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