Top tips to support your fussy eater

By April 4, 2020June 5th, 2023No Comments

T hings have been turned on their head across the globe in recent months.

Life as we know it has changed, and with that comes the obvious difficulties and adjustments, but what we may not have thought of is how this is all impacting our fussy eater!

Whilst some children will adjust well to all the changes, some children, especially ones that thrive on routine, may struggle, and this can impact their food intake and their responses to new foods. This can happen in neurotypical children, but moreso those with sensory sensitivities and/or ASD.

So how can we help our fussy eaters adjust to these changes, without their diets consisting of only a few foods that are eaten on repeat. Following are just a few steps to aiding your fussy eater in this tricky time.

1. Firstly, taking steps to avoid food jagging is important. Food jagging occurs when a child is over exposed to a food. They may eat this food every day, multiple times a day, and then suddenly, won’t go near it. This can be quite distressing for a family with a child who has a very limited food repertoire, so avoiding food jagging can be of considerable importance.

How to avoid food jagging…

For those particularly fussy eaters, have a list of foods that are rotated over a two (or three) day period, so they can eat a specific food every second day, rather than every day.
This gives them a break from this food, and helps to avoid food jagging.2. Secondly, and this is super important, you as the parent need to decide what foods are on offer for each meal (to provide some autonomy, you could offer two choices).
I’m a mum of three, I know how hard this can be, and I know that we won’t always get this right, but taking responsibility over the food options your child has, means that they won’t have the option of food jagging. They won’t be filling up on 8 muesli bars or a whole packet of rice crackers (been there), but instead they will be getting exposed to a variety of foods at each meal which they can either take or leave. That part is up to them, based on the division of responsibility, which you can read about here.

Rather than saying “what would you like for {insert meal}” try saying “Would you like {A} or {B} for {insert meal}. Children need some food direction, and we as parents are responsible for what our child has to choose from!

3. Thirdly, regular mealtimes, and having a (flexible but functional) food routine can set your fussy eater up for success, because even if they don’t eat all the foods you have offered at the last meal, with a food routine, they will be able to rely on the fact that there will be different foods to choose from at the next meal. I talk about how you can present snacks in another blog here. It’s tempting to constantly feed our kids snacks so they won’t complain or get hungry, but mild hunger sets all of us up to eat well at meal times.

4. Lastly, at each meal, offer something you know your child will comfortably eat (safe food) alongside more challenging foods. If they say they don’t want to eat them, comfort them by saying “that’s ok, you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, what you eat is up to you”. If they don’t want that food on their plate, have it on a separate plate in the middle of the table, and allow them to choose what migrates onto their own plate. Pressure off both your child and yourself will lead to more curious and adventurous eaters in the longterm!

If your child is not responding to feeding changes, and their list of accepted foods is getting shorter rather than longer, it may be time to seek advice. visit you paediatrician or gp to rule out any underlying issues, and feel free to contact us so we can point you in the right direction.

Please know that this time is tricky. It is hard to navigate what we should and shouldn’t be doing. This will impact your child in one way or another.

Try not to stress if your child is holding fast to familiar foods but do reach out if you’re at a loss as to how to navigate food at this tricky time.

Coming soon: “The tried and tested equation to growing a confident eater”.

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