Often parents, nannies and even doctors dismiss fussy eating habits in children as just a phase they are going through but new research suggests that there may be much more to it.
Researchers at North Carolina’s Duke University have found that fussy eaters may actually be at higher risk of developing depression or anxiety. From a study involving close to 1000 pre-school aged children, those who were severely selective eaters were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with social anxiety, generalised anxiety and depression when compared to children that were not fussy about food. The study also found that children who were moderate to severe picky eaters also were 3-5 times more likely to have conflicts regarding food.
Now we are not talking about children who have a non-preference for certain foods like the child who refuses to eat broccoli or the child who won’t eat strawberry yoghurt but those children whose eating is so restrictive that parents and nannies need to make meals for them separate from the rest of the family on a consistent basis. If this is the case then professional help make be a great idea and sooner rather than later.
Tips to help fussy eaters:
Keep them guessing
The wider the variety of foods you give from an early age, the less chance they’ll have to develop strong opinions about any one of them. If they love, say, avocado and you give it to them every day, they’ll start to refuse anything else. Even worse, they might get too used to it and never want it again. Change around your dishes and ingredients to always stay ahead of the game.
Change the texture
Texture plays a bigger part in our appreciation of food than flavour. Don’t believe us just ask yourself which you prefer, fresh bread or stale bread? The flavour of both is the same, but the texture is the difference between delicious and just yuk!
Even if it’s as simple as stirring a pot or guiding their hand as they slice a piece of tomato, involving your children in the food preparation and cooking process is a sure-fire way to nip any dinner time complaints in the bud. It’s a rare kid who will help cook something themselves and then refuse to eat it later.
Lead by example
We learn our food habits from our parents and other adults regularly in our lives and in the future those habits will decide whether we cook our own food or order takeaway, or whether we chew on an apple or chomp on a chocolate bar, as well as our willingness to try new foods.
The big picture is about healthy kids becoming healthy adults. Small fussy eating can be easily overcome with a bit of consistency and planning. For severe fussy eaters you might need to get some outside advice before it becomes a bigger issue and affects other aspects of their lives.