Do you have a child who refuses to eat anything but mac and cheese or peanut butter and jam sandwiches? Or maybe you're an adult who is a picky eater yourself and find it difficult to try new foods. You're not alone - these behaviours are common in what we call "fussy eaters." It starts from an early age.
Fussy eaters are individuals who have a limited range of foods they are willing to eat. They may avoid certain textures, colours, or flavours, or even entire food groups. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health problems if not addressed. Some children find it hard to eat soft foods if they've only been offered crunchy textures like crackers and biscuits. And in some cases children only have soft food like yoghurt because they don't want to chew food like meat and vegetables if they've been offered pureed food past 4-6 months.
What causes fussiness in eating?
Fussy eating can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and upbringing. Some individuals may be born with a heightened sensitivity to taste and texture, making certain foods unappealing. Others may develop picky eating habits due to a negative experience with a particular food, such as choking or getting sick after eating it.
Environmental factors such as a lack of exposure to a variety of foods or being offered too many processed or unhealthy foods can also contribute to picky eating habits. Upbringing can also play a role, as parents who pressure their children to eat certain foods or use food as a reward or punishment may inadvertently reinforce fussy eating behaviours.
Why is it important to address fussy eating?
Fussy eating can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health problems, as individuals may not be getting the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from their limited diets. It can also make social situations and dining out difficult, as fussy eaters may struggle to find something they are willing to eat. In extreme cases, fussy eating can lead to eating disorders or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Tips for addressing fussy eating:
Offer a variety of foods: One way to encourage a fussy eater to try new foods is to offer a variety of options at mealtime. This can include different textures, colours, and flavours. Encourage the individual to try a small bite of each food, and praise them for any effort made to try new things.
Involve the fussy eater in meal planning and preparation: Allowing a fussy eater to help choose and prepare meals can give them a sense of control and ownership over their food choices. This may increase their willingness to try new foods.
Make mealtimes enjoyable: Create a relaxed and positive atmosphere at mealtimes. Avoid pressuring the fussy eater to eat certain foods, and instead focus on making the experience enjoyable and stress-free.
Be patient: Changing picky eating habits can take time, and it's important to be patient and persistent. Encourage small steps and progress, and avoid getting frustrated or upset if the individual refuses certain foods.
Seek professional help if needed: If fussy eating habits are causing significant health or mental health concerns, it may be necessary to seek professional help from a doctor, nutritionist, or therapist.
In conclusion, fussy eating habits can be challenging to address, but it's important to take steps to encourage a varied and balanced diet for optimal health and wellbeing. By offering a variety of foods, involving the fussy eater in meal planning and preparation, making mealtimes enjoyable, being patient, and seeking professional help if needed, individuals can develop a healthy relationship with food and expand their palate over time.