There is no doubt that having a fussy eating child is stressful. I have seen many a parent in tears over this issue and in most of my initial consultations the time is spent reassuring them that they are not bad parents and have not really done anything wrong.
Cue a big surge of relief being lifted from their heavily burdened shoulders.
The fact is that the vast majority of children do go through a fussy stage and by looking at it from a child’s perspective you can then begin to understand the issue. Now I am not a child psychologist but I have spent many years seeing children with nutrition needs and have had the pleasure of helping many families with fussy eaters.
If you are reading this and you have a fussy eater you may have gone to doctor about it or seen your health visitor. Most of the time they show little concern and this can be frustrating but why are they not concerned?
Doctors and Health Visitors are not concerned if your child is growing and developing as expected. They know that children can be fussy and it is usually a phase they will grow out of. If they were at all concerned about the health of your child they would run tests to rule out any underlying medical issues.
During an initial consultation with a fussy eater my first task is always to rule out any medical reasons. These can include digestive disorders, food intolerances, problems in the mouth and other issues. Once any underlying issues have been ruled out I always look at the child’s food intake to check if any major food groups are missing or vital nutrients deficient.
To find out if your child is low in any nutrients click HERE to access a very simple test.
Once all that has been done and I am happy that there are no other factors involved, it’s a simple case of dealing with the stress and how the child and parent is feeling.
Now this may come as a big shock but I do not have a problem with a child missing meals, going to bed with no food and eating very little if they are developing and growing as expected.
The first thing you must understand is that a child will not starve themselves. They only know to eat for survival and to grow. So here is the first mistake we tend to make as parents – we try to get them to eat at set times and to eat a portion that is often too big!
The biggest growth period for a child is in the first 12 months. After this time their growth slows down and their need for food reduces accordingly. However, we perceive the portion size of a child to keep increasing the bigger the get – this is wrong!
Click HERE to find out how much your baby should eat!
Let’s look at things from a child’s perspective. They are not feeling hungry because they had a big stock up at breakfast and morning snack but they know that lunch is approaching soon and they will be expected to eat. They start to feel stressed about this impending event. Their body is telling them I’m full and don’t’ need anything but their Mum, Dad or carer is saying you must eat and if you don’t there may be a punishment. They start to act up, do anything to avoid eating, cry, clamp their mouth shut, and throw a tantrum because their body is saying I do not need any food! You start to stress, encourage them to eat, try any tactic that will get them to eat. You get stressed, they get stressed! The more this happens the more stressful it becomes and the more the child will react at mealtimes.
The first stage of any fussy eater’s plan is to take the pressure off both the child and the parent. Mealtimes should not be stressful for either of you. Simply take all the stress away, do not worry if your child leaves all of the meal just accept it. Do not over feed them, give a very small portion and I mean small! Do this for at least 2 weeks and note how different everyone’s stress levels are around mealtimes.
You are not alone, there are many parents who think their child is the worst eater but it is likely that your child is normal and those who seem to eat everything are the rarity!
To find out why children tend to like bread and crackers or plain foods and show little interest in vegetables and the healthy food we want them to eat click HERE.
To find out reasons why your child may not be eating click HERE and download my free guide.
Need one to one help? Why not contact me directly HERE and start making mealtimes stress free?