Different styles of fussy eating – Not one size fits all

There are different categories of fussy eaters and managing them is never a case of ‘one size fits all’. Use this quiz to find out which category your child falls into and how to manage their fussy eating.

There are different categories of fussy eaters and managing them is never a case of ‘one size fits all’. Use this quiz to find out which category your child falls into and how to manage their fussy eating.

1. Does your child eat a variety of foods from each food group?

  • Yes, go to question 2.
  • No, read below.

Children require a varied diet, eating a range of food from each of the food groups (grains and cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes, lean meats and alternatives and dairy ( and alternatives). This ensures they consume adequate nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre. The more commonly rejected groups are the meats and the vegetable groups, with littlies often preferring the sweetness of fruit, the comfort and familiarity of dairy and milk and the bland taste of carbohydrates and grains. When assessing your child’s diet, look at their intake over a week rather than a day; this helps to locate nutritional gaps. Introduce new foods with favourite foods and to begin with, keep the serving size small.

Meat & alternatives

  • Inadequate intake from this group can result in iron and zinc deficiency, decreasing appetite and taste.
  • Can be due to poor chewing skills so opt for soft or slow cooked meat and ask your little one to chew on their back molars to develop muscles.
  • Boost intake of iron and zinc in the short term by baking with iron fortified cereals, offering French toast or blending meats and use them as a spread on sandwiches while your littlie adapts.

Vegetables

  • Inadequate intake can result in insufficient intake of vitamins as well as fibre, which can cause constipation
  • In the short term, try grating vegetables in meatballs, lasagne and muffins but ensure offering whole vegetables (cooked where appropriate) daily to help maintain familiarity.
  • Try building a veggie patch so they see them growing way before they are expected to taste them.

2. Does your child enjoy the same meal as the family?

  • Yes, go to question 3.
  • No, read below.

Parents often express that their little ones start solid foods well enjoying many new tastes and textures. A few months on however, becoming fussy and rejecting foods offered to them, preferring ‘yummy’ sweeter tasting foods, falling into poor eating habits. At 12 months bub should be eating the same meal as the family (adapted for salt and sugar), if not they will quickly learn that mum is prepared to make special meals to reduce dinner time stress. Being a good role model for your child is important, as are set eating schedules and a pleasant eating environment, including limiting distractions such as TV. Limit processed food and avoid large snacks or grazing prior to dinner. The key to improving your child’s eating behaviour here is persistence.

3. Does your child limit their intake to dry, white or plain foods?

  • Yes, read below.
  • No, go to question 4.

The white food eater usually has a diet restricted to lower fibre carbohydrates and often low intakes of vitamins C and E, zinc, iron, iodine and antioxidants. Firstly, swap refined choices for wholegrain options such as crackers and bread to increase fibre and B vitamins. You can use these foods as a boat for new foods by adding a little hommus or vegetable based dip to crackers, blending some fruit into a smoothie or adding a little peanut butter or avocado to toast. Use white beans such as cannellini or butter beans mixed into cream cheese, peanut butter or vegetable dips to add valuable protein, iron and fibre. Use the 6 steps below for trying a new food.

4. Does your child reject new foods more than 50% of the time?

  • Yes, read below.
  • No, go to question 5.

Neophobia or the fear of ‘new things’ is a common frustration for many parents. If your littlie is neophobic, use bridging flavours and familiar foods such as sauces, mayonnaise and hommus before gradually reducing the amount. The 6 steps to trying a new food can be implemented and include

  • Touching the food
  • Smelling the food
  • Touching the food to the lips or kissing the food
  • Holding the food between the front teeth
  • Placing the food on the back molars
  • Taking a small nibble

Ensure that once the steps have been undertaken that the food is given regularly to keep it familiar and accepted.

5. Is your bub still consuming blended or pureed foods beyond 7 months of age?

  • Yes, read below.
  • No, go to question 6.

The introduction of solids around 6 months of age is essential to meet bubs increasing nutrition requirements and for proper eating development. Textured lumps need to be introduced soon after commencing solids to help develop chewing and swallowing skills. Parents may revert back to smooth purees if they notice bub gagging on lumps, however this is a normal reaction to help prevent food going down the wind pipe. Often littlies will prefer smooth purees during a bout of illness such as tonsillitis; however once they are feeling better, quickly progress through the textures as soon as possible. Babies who suffer from recurrent upper respiratory infections may have difficulty breathing through their nose, which can impact on chewing or swallowing and may need to be reviewed by an ear, nose and throat specialist. Initially, lumps should be small and soft, for example, mashed banana or soft avocado, grated cheese or cut up pieces of cooked pasta. Once your little one is able to chew and swallow these properly, offer harder solids which are able to dissolve when mixed with saliva, such as soft crackers or little pieces of sandwich.

6. Are you worried about the amount of food your little one is consuming and their growth?

  • Yes, read below.
  • No, go to question 7.

If your littlie is a small eater and tracking low on growth charts for height and weight they may be receiving inadequate kilojoules for growth. Children have small stomachs about the size of their fist so aim for 5-6 smaller meals rather than 3 main meals. Boosting energy intake through kilojoule rich foods such as nut butters, avocado, olive oil and eggs can be a strategy to increase weight, however a visit to a GP, Child Health Nurse or Dietitian may be advised to monitor growth and make individual recommendations.

7. Does your child receive more nutrition from milk than regular foods?

  • Yes, read below.
  • No, go to results.

Generally children over 2 years of age should be having less than 1-2 small cups of milk per day, only requiring 1 ½ serves of dairy daily. Once they are older than 12 months, cease using a bottle, which can sometimes be easiest if you remove all bottles and replace with a small cup or sipper cup, which can also be used for water. Make sure that meals are eaten before drinks and offer your tot a range of calcium rich foods such as cheese and yoghurt rather than just milk.

Results

So far so good – your little one doesn’t appear to be displaying any typical signs of fussy eating. Remember offer a variety of texture appropriate food, be a great role model and eat the same meal together as a family when and wherever possible.

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