One of the most common worries amongst parents is if their child is a fussy eater. It is not only stressful when a child doesn’t eat the family meals, but parents also worry about how this might affect their health.
Some health professionals dismiss fussy eaters calling it ‘just a phase’, which of course can be the case. However, when it becomes more than just a phase, is when you should you seek a little more help? We will discuss that a bit further in this post.
Fussy eaters often present themselves around the age of 18 months to 2 years. Developmentally, this is a common time for toddlers to express themselves in many parts of their behaviours and not just food.
Normal age appropriate fussy eating habits
- Distract easily – A bird flying out the window stops them from eating lunch and they want to get out of their chair.
- Develop negative behaviour – No, I don’t like strawberries (today).
- Displays food preferences – I like carrots cooked rather than raw but can’t express it properly.
- Appetite decreases – Their rate of growth slowing as well as being distracted easily means that their appetite might decrease, which might mean that they are not eating as much as they used to.
- Ritual becomes important – They have to have a certain cup and plate in a certain chair. But of course they cannot always express that easily or properly.
These development cues can lead them to being fussier in their eating habits and at meal times, however, they are all very normal to a child’s development.
From around the age of 2-3 they might also express:
- Definite likes and dislikes – About all manner of things, including certain foods. It might be a true like or dislike, or it might not.
- Food fads – They might love pumpkin risotto for 3 weeks and then suddenly not like it at all. They might not like banana for 3 months, then eat it for morning tea for 3 weeks.
All of these behaviours are again normal fussy-eating, age-appropriate behaviours and are one of the reasons parents MUST keep offering different foods again and again, alongside foods we know the child will eat.
Signs that might indicate that your child could have a more serious fussy eating problem?
- They might have a restricted range of foods, less than 10 food groups or less than 20 different foods.
- When new foods are introduced they ‘break down’, cry or even gag.
- They refuse entire categories of foods, like all meats, all crunchy foods.
- Often eat a completely different meal to the rest of the family.
If these are common in your child then you might like to talk to a pediatric doctor or feeding specialist who has a background in OT, Speech Pathology, Psychology or Dietetics.
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