Are you struggling with a picky or fussy eater in your household? It can be frustrating and overwhelming to deal with a child or even young adult who refuses to eat certain foods, especially when it’s causing stress at mealtimes. But rest assured, you’re not alone – many people struggle with fussy eating habits. In this post, we’ll explore some possible causes of fussy eating and provide some tips for managing it.
What is fussy eating?
Fussy eating, also known as picky eating, refers to the habit of being particular about what one eats. This can include refusing certain foods or food groups, only wanting to eat certain textures or colors, or having strong preferences for certain flavors. Fussy eaters may also be resistant to trying new foods, and mealtimes can become a source of conflict and stress for both the fussy eater and their family. It’s important to understand why fussy eating occurs in children. In fact, this is a normal part of childhood development.
Possible causes of fussy eating
There are many reasons why someone may develop fussy eating habits. Here are a few possible causes:
- Sensory issues: Some children may have sensory processing issues that make certain textures or flavors unappealing or overwhelming. Think about yourself….do certain textures make you gag or lose your appetite?
- Childhood experiences: Negative experiences with certain foods during childhood, such as being forced to eat something they didn’t like, can lead to long-term aversions.
- Genetics: Research has shown that there may be a genetic component to fussy eating habits.
- Boundary issues: For some children, fussy eating may be a way to assert their independence and control. When parents exert force or are overly concerned, children have a natural way of understanding how to press their buttons!
- New foods. Trying new foods can be overwhelming.
- Dislikes. We all have dislikes! I don’t like sushi and won’t eat it. It’s okay for children to have favorite foods and foods they dislike! Don’t we all??
Tips for managing fussy eating
If you’re dealing with a fussy eater, there are some strategies you can try to help manage the situation:
- Be patient: Fussy eating habits won’t change overnight, and it’s essential to be patient and persistent in your efforts to broaden your child’s palate.
- Introduce new foods gradually: Instead of overwhelming your child with a new food they’ve never seen before, try introducing it in small amounts alongside familiar foods. In fact, it takes 15-20 times to introduce the same food to your child to finally accept it.
- Offer choices: Give your child some control over what they eat by offering them a choice between two or three options. Developing and respecting your child’s autonomy is essential.
- Get creative with preparation: If your child doesn’t like a particular food in one form (e.g., steamed broccoli), try preparing it differently (e.g., roasted broccoli with olive oil and garlic).
- Make mealtimes positive: Try to create a relaxed and positive environment around mealtimes without putting pressure on your child to eat a certain amount or type of food. Involve your children early on in the kitchen and meal prep. They are more likely to eat the food they helped make.
- Allow the child to eat on their own as early as possible. This can be messy, but touching food with one’s hands has many benefits, including getting used to textures. You can consider buying a floor mat or a plastic tablecloth that is easily washable.
7. Don’t force it: Forcing your child to eat something they don’t want to can backfire. Force-feeding can lead to negative associations with that food. Food should not be a punishment or reward.
8. Eat together. Eating together has many health and social benefits. Families that eat together have children with higher IQs, are less likely to take substances, less likely to engage in sexual behavior at a young age, have more nutrient-dense foods, and maintain healthy body weight with fewer body image issues or eating disorders.
Division of Responsibility
Parents: The Three Ws
- Parents determine where, when, and what. You determine the time, place, and what is given to your child.
Children: What and how.
- Children determine what they will eat and how much. They determine what on their plate they will eat.
If you are worried about the growth or development of your child or meal times are awfully challenging, consult your physician or a registered dietitian.
Remember, health and happiness go hand in hand. If being healthy isn’t making you happy, something is missing!!
If you found this article helpful and enjoyable, consider sharing it with your loved ones. Sharing is a great way to show your care and concern for them.