It doesn’t matter whether your fussy eater is a particular appetite for white foods or a complete refusal to eat vegetables, mealtime can become more challenging.
Although picky eating is normal for toddlers, it can be a problem in school years.
Now, New Research From USC to University of South Australia and the University of Queensland provides a better understanding of how fussy eaters are affected and what factors are more likely increase or decrease picky eating among children under 10.
Research from 80 industry professionals revealed that children are more likely to be fussy eaters if they have a variety of factors.
A study showed that children who are pressured to eat, given rewards, or had their parenting style very strict all contributed to their eating habits becoming fussy. However, fussy eating is less likely to be caused by a relaxed parenting style, eating together as families, and including children in the food preparation.
Laine Chilman , USC PhD Student, leads the research. She says that it aims to help parents and carers better understand fussy-eating in children.
Chilman said that parents with fussy eaters may find mealtimes stressful. “For parents with a fussy eater, mealtimes can be especially stressful – juggling the family meal and a picky eater is no small feat.” Chilman stated.
“Some families have kids who turn their noses up at any vegetable. Others are dealing with kids who dislike certain textures or colours of food.”
“Some of these preferences relate to a child’s characteristics or personality, which are difficult to change, if at all. But others are external factors that could help reduce fussy eating in kids.”
“Eating together as a family, with siblings, and having a single meal at a regular time all helped reduce food fussiness. As did getting the fussy child involved in the meal, either by helping to choose the menu, or helping to prepare the meal.”
“Yet if fussy eaters were allowed to eat in front of the TV, or if they were rewarded for eating certain foods, these behaviours negatively influenced picky children.”
According to the Australian Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey most children don’t meet recommended nutrition and diet guidelines.
UniSA researcher Ann Kennedy-Behr believes stress can cause fussy eating.
Dr Kennedy-Behr explains,“When you have a child who is a picky eater, it’s very stressful for a parent or carer – they’re forever questioning whether their child is getting enough nutrients, enough food, and often enough weight gain,” Dr Kennedy-Behr says.
“Yet it’s important to understand that being overtly anxious or worried can actually contribute to increased picky eating.”
“Avoiding getting cross and limiting any negativity around mealtime will be benefit everyone.”
“Positive parenting, no matter how difficult it can be in certain situations, is the best step forward for fussy eaters.”
Top tips for a fussy eater
- Be a role model: A family that eats well together will have healthier eating habits
- Plan regular meals: Regular mealtimes can reduce stress levels.
- Encourage children to be involved in food preparation. Familiarity and control can make it easier for them.
- One mealtime is best: Separate kids’ seating encourages fussy eating
- Turn off the TV. Focus on the food and not on screens.
- Relaxing at mealtimes will help you have a more pleasant experience.
- For fussy eaters, you can remove rewards or bribes.