Around 80% of families I see in my clinic are struggling to increase variety in their children’s diet. Time, effort and expense spent preparing healthy and nutritious meals and snacks, only to have a little one turn their nose up is understandably a stressful experience – for everyone!
Fussy eating, which surfaces between the ages of 2-6, is thankfully a phase most children will grow out of. However, the strategies we implement to deal with their food refusal, along with the food choices we offer them during this stage can have a huge impact on how willing they are to try new foods and how their eating habits are ultimately shaped.
A small percentage of children will require intervention as a result of physiological or psychological reasons for their ongoing food refusal. These children are classified as “problem feeders” whose difficulties with food can be due to a myriad of reasons: oral motor delays, sensory issues, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety food-related disorders and having low muscle tone. In these instances, it’s recommended to seek expert support from dieticians, nutritionists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and/or paediatricians.
In my clinic and fussy eating workshops, I’m always keen to manage expectations around what “success” looks like? Each family’s situation is unique and success with mealtimes needs to be measured accordingly. For one child, moving from one vegetable to two vegetables daily is a huge success. For another child, eating a meatball in sauce is a big win.
Listen to the latest episode of our podcast for (imperfect) parents below. Post continues after audio.
Ideally, we want to move away from a typical fussy eaters ‘white’ diet, filled with refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, cheese and sugary processed snacks, and work to include nutritious foods such as vegetables, slow-release carbohydrates, iron-rich protein and healthy fats.