Is it picky eating, just a phase or do I need help?

That picky eater phase and how to tell when you need help.

ALL toddlers go through a picky eating phase where suddenly everything vaguely healthy that you try to feed them is highly suspicious! Those strawberries he loved last week now make him cover his mouth and run away screaming. The carrot she loved as a baby is now rejected and propelled onto the floor… You feel the very real fear that your child is a fussy or picky eater and may not eat anything with any natural colour again in his or her life! You wonder how this happened, you’ve always been so pleased to have such a great eater; what’s changed?

What’s changed? Are they a picky eater now?

The answer is… nothing. Nothing at all has changed except your child has reached a point in their lives where they have realised that they can! They’re not necessarily a picky or fussy eater; what they really want is control.  You can give that to them in a few ways – choice of 2 vegetables, colour of plate, what activity to do after we finish. Consistency and fun with food are also vital as you wait it out to see if they ever eat what you cook again.

5 ways to tell if your child might need extra support to expand their diet

There are other children however, that require more support and might not “grow out of it” by themselves. A quarter of children don’t grow out of challenging eating without support. Here are 5 ways to tell if your child may need a little bit of extra support to get them eating a balanced diet again.

1. While a few of these little people start off eating their vegetable and fruit puree, a significant number of them struggle to wean. They’re either not interested in solids or struggle with certain textures or tastes.

2. If your little person is still not eating nutritionally balanced meals after a year You may need support. It can help to get Little Bites to evaluate why and to give strategies to help overcome their fear of new food. If their nutrition is causing concerns about their health always speak to your doctor. Little Bites does free telephone consultations to answer any questions and show you how we can help your challenging eater.

3. If your child is getting a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in their diet, for example getting iron from greens and protein from eggs instead of meat, then you might be happy to keep going with the same meals day after day – or you might want to get them past this point to where they can develop new tastes. If your child is missing whole food groups and essential nutrition then it’s time to act, whether that’s going on a treasure hunt for that longed for healthy food they accept, hiding veggies in burgers and smoothies or reaching out to ask for help.

4. If your child starts to reject those few foods that do give them what they need, that is another sign your child may not just be going through a phase , they may need more support. All children are different and a one-size fits all approach does not work. There are many things to evaluate to help your child to like food – tastes, textural preferences, eating habits and routines to take into account.

5. If your child eats the same food every day and the majority of those are beige – chips, chicken nuggets, cookies, toast… and the only colour comes from lollies then your child is likely to be missing out on important nutrition. Even during phases there are usually a few fruits and vegetables to know you can persuade your child to eat.

How can you help?

See a doctor if you feel your child’s health is a concern and book to talk to ‘Little Bites’. Try to make meal times stress free – don’t force feed, get angry, expect big plates full of food to be finished, or do anything that shows your child that eating is stressful – they will not be comfortable tasting new food if they are anxious. Instead, give them something you’re both happy with for now, and try introducing them to a new food at a different time, using the Little Bites strategies as an activity to help them become more comfortable with trying new things. Small steps and little bites should be celebrated in a BIG way, show your child that enjoying food can be good!

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