Fussy Eaters, Children Fussy Eaters, Toddler Fussy Eater

Fussy Eaters

Adults often have unrealistic ideas on how much and the types of food their child should be eating. A child’s appetite changes as they develop. Babies grow very rapidly and therefore often eat well. It is surprising to parents that toddlers seem to eat very little food. This is because they grow at a much slower rate than babies and therefore need fewer kilojoules (a source of energy found in food).

Toddlers are also starting to express their independence and battles are often fought over meals, which sometimes becomes a regular habit of a fussy toddler eater.

Parents may worry that their child will not grow and develop normally or may become sick if they are refusing to eat a lot of food. Sometimes parents resort to feeding their child unhealthy snacks.

This reassures the parent in the short term but is not the best long term outcome for dealing with a fussy toddler eater. The toddler may then be more reluctant to eat a meal, knowing a snack will be offered later.

If your young child refuses food, remember the following:

  • Healthy children, fussy eaters and toddlers eat when they are hungry.
  • No healthy child has ever starved to death by refusing food.
  • If a child refuses food, they are not hungry.

Food fads and fussy eater behaviours are common in young children, particularly toddlers. They may choose to eat only one or two foods for what seems to be days on end, or become fussy eaters who refuse to try new things. This is a way of expressing independence. As the fads tend to change frequently, most children, fussy eaters or otherwise, end up with quite a varied diet. It is often easier to go with the fad than fight it. No single food is essential and a substitute can often be found. Fussy eaters can be frustrating to deal with, but are not uncommon amongst toddler age groups.

The following tips will help parents and carers deal with fussy eaters, both toddlers and children:

  • Remember that young children and fussy eaters may eat most of their food as snacks rather than meals. These can add up and provide children with energy and nutrients for normal growth and development.
  • Avoid mealtime battles with a fussy eater. If a food isn’t eaten after a reasonable period of time, take it away and re-offer it later.
  • Serve at least one food that your child likes and one new food at each meal. Encourage your child to try the new food. If unsuccessful, try again the next day.
  • Increase your child’s interest in food by involving them in shopping and food preparation. This can be a great way to engage fussy eaters, toddlers and young children in healthy eating habits
  • Offer a variety of food from each food group over the day. Fussy eaters, both children and toddlers learn about the world through experiencing new tastes.

The food groups are:

  • Cereals (including breads, rice, pasta, noodles)
  • Vegetables and legumes
  • Fruit
  • Milks, yoghurt and cheese
  • Meat, fish and poultry

Each food group provides different nutrients. Wholegrains provide B vitamins and fibre; fruit and vegetables contain Vitamin C and folate; dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium; red meats contain iron and zinc; fish is an excellent source of omega 3 fats; and nut and legume oils contain essential fatty acids and vitamin E.

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