One of the most common worries amongst parents is their child’s fussy eating ways. It is stressful that the child doesn’t eat the family meals, but they are also worried about their health and how this might develop.
Some health professionals dismiss fussy eaters and call it ‘just a phase’, which of course can be the case, but not always. When might it be a bit more than a phase and 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 18 month to 2 year mark. Developmentally this is a common time for toddlers to express themselves in many parts of their lives differently, as well as food.
Fussy Eating signs that are NORMAL
From around the age of 18-24 months they might also express:
- 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 and appear they are not eating as much as they used to.
- Ritual becomes important – They have to have the 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 ways and at meal times. These 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 normal fussy-eating age-appropriate behaviours and are one of the reasons we keep offering foods again and again, alongside foods we know the child will eat.
Fussy eating signs that might NOT be normal
- They might have a restricted range of foods, less than 10 foods or less than 20 different foods.
- When new foods are introduced they ‘break down’, cry or even gag.
- Refuse entire categories of foods, like all meats, all crunchy foods.
- Often eats a completely different meal to the family.
If these are common in your child then you might like to talk to a paediatric feeding specialist who has a background in OT, Speech Pathology, Psychology or Dietetics.
Check out our Healthy Kids Cookbook for even more delicious ideas to tempt even the fussiest of eaters.
Amanda Dos Santos, Healthy Mummy Nutritionist