food

Five ways to tell if you're an 'adult fussy eater,' and why it really matters.

Fussy eating, which tends to surface between the ages of two and six, is usually something kids grow out of, but what happens when these issues with food extend into adulthood?

Around 80 per cent of the families I see in my clinic, are struggling to increase variety in their children’s diets. Invariably at least one of these children’s parents has an issue with food, and more often than not, they can’t see it for themselves.

I work closely with these families to identify the underlying causes behind their fussy eating, but if children aren’t given strategies to deal with physiological or psychological issues early on, negative food associations can start to build up and actually get worse with age.

This can be genuinely debilitating for adults as it not only affects the sufferer’s health and wellbeing, but it also takes a toll emotionally by making it harder to socialise and placing strain on their relationships. Here are five ways to identify if you are an adult fussy eater and how it can affect your health.

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1. You’re in diet denial.

Most fussy eaters would argue that they eat a relatively healthy diet. They would probably tell you they’re getting their five portions of vegetables a day, when in reality it’s barely one. Chances are they pick the veggies off pizza, they consider potato salad to be healthy and they’re very particular about the way things are cooked.

Impact on your health:

Not only are vegetables packed with essential vitamins and minerals, but vegetables are also nature’s greatest insurance policy against disease, with a plethora of antioxidants and phytonutrients. If you’re not eating your greens (reds, oranges, blues, purples and browns), everything from your immune system, to your skin, bone health, eye health and heart will eventually start to suffer.

2. You don’t like to share or sit down to eat with others.

Chinese, curry or tapas – fussy eaters can’t afford to give any of their limited food choices away. Sadly, as a fussy eater, you probably don’t really enjoy eating out with others or sharing meals, and make it hard for others around you to order too.

Impact on your health:

If this sounds like you, then you probably agree – there’s very little joy when food is involved. You eat when you are hungry and that is all. I am here to tell you, that eating can be a social activity and it can be fun! Negative associations with food, can develop from our parents’ attitude towards food or from a negative experience in childhood. Once they settle in, it’s very difficult to enjoy and appreciate an abundant and varied diet.

Celebrity chef Curtis Stone once urged parents of fussy eaters to let their children go hungry, but should fussy adult eaters also abide by this rule? Decide for yourself.

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3. You can list what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Adult fussy eaters don’t enjoy variety in their diets, which means they can usually tell you what they had for breakfast last Tuesday –it’s the same as what they had for breakfast this Tuesday too.

Impact on your health:

Repetitive eating becomes a problem when a limited diet starts to dwindle even further, so much so that you begin to miss out entire food groups and the vital nutrients and minerals your body needs to function. The clients I see in my clinic with restricted diets tend to be low in iron, zinc and vitamin B12. They often suffer from lethargy, poor concentration and sometimes sensory processing disorders.

4. You suffer from social anxiety.

Food is a huge part of most social activities. For those who are very selective about what they eat, events like weddings, barbecues and work dinners can be understandably stressful and even humiliating. Adult fussy eaters tend to avoid these situations whenever possible.

Impact on your health:

When there are existing negative food associations and you add stress and anxiety over social situations involving food, you’re opening yourself up to social isolation, the breakdown of relationships and the risk of comfort eating to combat depression, low self-esteem and other negative feelings. This is when you really need to break the cycle of fussy eating. But don’t worry. Take comfort in the fact that fussy eating is quite common, you are not alone and there is help out there.

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5. You don’t like to cook and don’t take much interest in food whatsoever.


As a foodie, it can be hard to imagine missing out on all the enjoyment that cooking and eating delicious food can bring. But for some people, food brings nothing but stress and anxiety.

Impact on your health:

Obviously not everyone is a cordon bleu chef, but avoiding the kitchen altogether can drive you straight to the convenience of junk food, which offers little to no nutritional value and is full of additives, preservatives, salt and sugar. This also limits variety in the diet, which for most fussy eaters quickly becomes a dependence on salt laden, carbohydrate-rich foods.

If this sounds like you, do not despair. There is help available and you are not alone. The first step to seeking help, is awareness. You identify with the above and would like to make a change. Reach out to your network to share how you feel and gather support. Research online and explore the resources available on my website. There are many helpful workshops, nutritionists, books and community groups available for Adult Fussy Eaters.

For the brave ones out there, jump straight in and try something new. A beginner’s cooking class, plant a veggie garden or enlist a close friend or family member to set up a food tasting exercise with new foods you think you don’t like but if you try, you might be able to enjoy.

It can take your tastebuds 10 or more attempts to adjust to a new flavour, so take it slowly. Start by committing to try one new food each week, even if it’s just a mouthful. Check out my book for hundreds of easy recipe ideas. Test out a recipe and have some fun. Easy even for the inexperienced to follow. Try swapping your favourite junk food for a healthier version like sweet potato crackers, cheesy cauliflower pizza or chocolate avocado mousse without all the refined sugar, salt and nasties found in commercial products. Remember to celebrate the achievements along the way, however small they may be, and don’t give up!

Food was made to be enjoyed.

To learn more about Mandy Sacher please visit the Wholesome Child website or connect with Mandy on Instagram and Facebook. Her book “Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook” is available to purchase online and from the iTunes store.

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