Signs your fussy eater is doing fine
Fussy eaters are often a big worry for parents. Yet despite the concerns they cause, it seems that often our toddlers thrive despite their strange eating habits.
You may become more relaxed with subsequent children after you see your first child go through a fussy stage and come out the other side. On the other hand, it might be your second or third child that displays fussiness never seen in your first.
Michele Chevalley Hedge, family nutrition expert, says it is important for parents to remember that we don’t often see malnourished children in Australia and New Zealand. But what we do have is parents experiencing severe anxiety over the nutritional intake of their child.
“If children are hungry they will eat most things … if they were really, truly starving,” she says, advising parents to trust that eventually their nutritional nurturing will kick in.
“Keep offering and encouraging good, clean food – if they don’t eat it, assume they are not hungry and do not offer them junk foods as a replacement,” she says.
So what should you be on the look out for?
Michele says if your child is picking up colds and flus, appears tired, pale or has a low body weight, then it’s time to seek nutritional guidance or see a GP.
“I had a slim eight year old whose mum was quite concerned about lack of variety and amount of food he had, so she came to see me. He was a fussy eater and only ate little bits of each meal, but ate two bananas every day in his bath before bed. He was a happy boy on all levels – physically, mentally and emotionally. In this scenario the message is: it may not be perfect, but sometimes good is good enough.”
In this example, the slim eight year old has grown up to be a healthy teenager who now enjoys all foods.
“A healthy child will look healthy, physically (their weight), have good colour in their skin, normal body growth and a functioning immune system. Equally importantly, they will have good brain function – concentration, alertness, mood and comprehension. Food is brain fuel for their growing, developing brains,” she says.
10 tips for fussy eaters
Tip #1: Say NO to junk as a substitute
The number one rule for making sure their nutritional needs don’t slip into the red zone is not supplying junk when they won’t eat the good stuff. This will give them the calories they need to not feel hungry, so they won’t drop into ‘hungry-enough-to-eat-a-nutritious-meal’ mode. And they’ll develop some pretty heinous eating habits for the longer term!
Tip #2: Drinks can be filling
Avoid fruit juices and milks with fussy eaters – like junk foods, this will fill them up and take the place of good food in their bellies.
Tip #3: Have a few go-to healthy choices
While my youngest is not huge on variety, he does have a number of healthy foods he adores like Weet-bix, fruit, wholemeal toast and baked beans. If we are having a dinner I know he won’t be keen on, I will offer him a choice of these dishes as long as he has a small portion of our food.
Tip #4: Keep a daily food diary
If you are truly worried, write a daily food diary and check it over once a week. Often what they eat in a day can look lopsided, but you may be surprised at how much variety they are cramming in over the period of a week.
Tip #5: Invest in a juicer
I picked up a nice one from Kmart for $50 and can now get my kids drinking kale, chinese greens and spinach. And for the really fussy moments, cucumber and celery are pretty flavour-free and can be disguised with an apple or orange juiced on top. Juice is no substitute for the real deal in terms of fibre and fullness, but it can help them get some variety into their nutrient count if you offer it after meals.
Tip #6: Trick ‘em with tasteless
Chopped frozen spinach makes a dish look pretty and has no taste, so you can add it to many savoury dishes without a whimper. There are plenty of veggies you can do this with, such as carrot and zucchini.
Tip #7: Get their help to cook
If your kids get into the cooking with you, they are far more likely to eat. They’ll sample as they go and have pride in the finished product … and hopefully want to eat it.
Tip #8: They really will not starve
Trust that a hungry child will eventually eat something – even if it’s just a banana.
Tip #9: Keep offering variety
Persevere with a variety of choices – even if means something gets put back in the freezer for another time.
Tip #10: Find your family favourites
Seek out easy, tasty, healthy recipes for families. They are out there and many require little planning and preparation.
This article was written by Melanie Hearse