Fussy Eater

By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai

Fussy eating is the unwillingness to eat both familiar and novel foods. Childhood fussy eating can be a barrier to a healthful diet and is associated with mealtime stress and conflict. 

Fussy eaters will reject foods that they like one day, but then happily eat them the next. Someone that so picky about their food and is always complaining about it. A lot of times these people only want the food that they want and wouldn’t want to eat whatever they got. These people like to complain nonstop until they get the food they want. {1, 8}

Fussy, faddy or choosy eating is usually classified as part of a spectrum of feeding difficulties. It is characterised by an unwillingness to eat familiar foods or to try new foods, as well as strong food preferences. The consequences may include poor dietary variety during early childhood. This, in turn, can lead to concern about the nutrient composition of the diet and thus possible adverse health-related outcomes. {2}

It’s normal for children to be fussy eaters – that is, to not like the taste, shape, colour or texture of particular foods.

It’s also normal for children to like something one day but dislike it the next, to refuse new foods, and to eat more or less from day to day.

This all happens because fussy eating is part of children’s development. It’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. And it’s also because children’s appetites go up and down depending on how much they’re growing and how active they are. {3}  

This article published by Dr Dharini, in Times of India, Aug 26 2019, According to Dr Dharini Krishnan – Balanced meal is extremely important for growing kids.  Kids should include five food groups – first is grains which include wheat, rice, bajra, jowar and other millet. This is something we all tend to remember to feed our kids. Second is protein which includes dals, soya, tofu, eggs, fish, and chicken. Then we have vegetables, fruits and dairy. A child should have all these food groups every day.

Dr Dharini also adds, “The portions, if a child eats 2-3 pieces of apple, it is good. In addition, they should have half a cup of vegetable, 1 to 1.5 cups of rice, and quarter cup or one cup dal, depending on the child’s age.”

Dr Dharini also concluded that Fussy eating starts with the emotions of a parent. “When parents are tense about their child’s nutrition, children tend to take on their stress. Children throwing tantrums, spitting food, throwing food around, not eating is common. {4}

Causes of fussy/picky eating include early feeding difficulties, late introduction of lumpy foods at weaning, pressure to eat and early choosiness, especially if the mother is worried by this; protective factors include the provision of fresh foods and eating the same meal as the child.

The consequences for the child’s diet include poor dietary variety and a possible distortion of nutrient intakes, with low intakes of iron and zinc (associated with low intakes of meat, and fruit and vegetables) being of particular concern. Low intakes of dietary fibre, as a result of low intakes of fruit and vegetables, are associated with constipation in fussy eaters. There may be developmental difficulties in some children with persistent fussy eating.

There may be a small subgroup of children in whom fussy eating does not resolve who might be at risk of thinness during adolescence, or of developing an eating disorder or adult fussy eating: these children need to be identified at an early age to enable support, monitoring and advice to be offered to parents. {9}

How to deal with fussy eater child

Fussy eating is one of the most common food-related issue parents struggle to address.

One day, your child’s favourite food in the world is peanut butter and jelly; the next, your child won’t touch any sandwich whatsoever. If you don’t address the issue, your child’s limited diet could lead to a lack of adequate nutrition. {5}

  • Make mealtime’s happy, regular and social occasions. Try not to worry about spilled drinks or food on the floor.
  • Serve small portions – Start small. For example, start by asking your child to lick a piece of food, and work up to trying a mouthful. And praise your child for these small attempts.
  • If your child is fussing about food, ignore it as much as you can. Giving fussy eating lots of attention can sometimes encourage children to keep behaving this way.
  • Make healthy foods fun & attractive – Offer your child a variety of different colours, shapes and sizes and let your child choose what he eats from the plate. For example, cut sandwiches into interesting shapes, or let your child help prepare a salad or whisk eggs for an omelette.
  • Turn the TV off so your family members can talk to each other instead.
  • Set a time limit of about 20 minutes for meals- Anything that goes on too long isn’t fun. If your child hasn’t eaten the food in this time, take it away and don’t offer your child more food until the next planned meal or snack time.
  • Involve Your Child in Food-Buying and Prep – Getting your child involved in preparing family meals. For example, your child could help out with: picking a recipe, getting food out of the fridge, washing fruit and veggies, tossing a salad, planting and picking herbs at home.
  • Offer new foods -Keep offering new foods at different times. Your child will probably try them and eventually like them – But she might have to see a food on the plate 10-15 times before she even tries a taste.
  • Put a small amount of new food on the plate with familiar food your child already likes – for example, a piece of broccoli alongside some mashed potato. Encourage your child to touch, smell or lick the new food.
  • Serve your child the same meal the family is eating but in a portion size your child will eat.
  • Offer different foods from each of the five healthy food groups. For example, if your child doesn’t like cheese, he might enjoy yogurt instead.
  • Try not to let your child fill up on drinks or ‘sometimes’ foods before introducing new foods. They more likely to try food if they hungry and doesn’t have the option of something else to eat.
  • When possible, look for opportunities for your child to share meals and snacks with other children – he might be more willing to try a food if other children are tucking in.
  • Repeat offerings – Even if your child doesn’t accept the roasted rutabaga the first time you serve it for dinner, she might the next time. It might be that she’d prefer it steamed, or it might just be that she’s having a difficult day. The next time you serve it, she might be more willing to take a bite or two.
  • Don’t force your child to eat – There are many adults who have suffered long-lasting emotional and physical consequences as a result of being required to clean their plates, such as obesity, food addiction or anorexia or bulimia. Encourage your child to eat, but don’t require to sit at the dinner table all night before they excused from the table. They have lots of other opportunities to try new foods.
  • Don’t offer many new foods at once – This is a recipe for overwhelming the child. Serve one new food at a time, and serve it alongside a food that’s a familiar.
  • Don’t expect from child to eat what you won’t -Every person has certain food preferences. But, if you don’t like cauliflower and your child doesn’t like cauliflower, why would he even give it a bite if you’re not willing to do the same.

Model the behaviour you want to see from your child. If that means you have to suck down three to five bites of roasted cauliflower, be willing to do it. {6, 7}

This is particularly advisable if children show extreme reactions to foods they don’t like or suddenly have an aversion to a food that they used to enjoy. The doctor is there to help you figure out these difficult issues and can refer to you a health care professional that specializes in eating issues, if necessary.  

References:-

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666318305671
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666315003438#:~:text=Picky%20eating%20(also%20known%20as,dietary%20variety%20during%20early%20childhood.
  3. https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/common-concerns/fussy-eating
  4. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/parenting/toddler-year-and-beyond/how-to-deal-with-fussy-eaters/articleshow/70838866.cms
  5. https://www.verywellfamily.com/tips-for-dealing-with-a-fussy-eater-4065124
  6. https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/common-concerns/fussy-eating
  7. https://www.verywellfamily.com/tips-for-dealing-with-a-fussy-eater-4065124
  8. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=fussy%20eater
  9. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/picky-eating-in-children-causes-and-consequences/34921F967B9F37046962CA866DC199C3

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