Fussy eater

"Yucky!" your child says, and you throw away another plate of half-eaten food. It happens to all parents sooner or later. Every child can be picky about their food at times. But what do you do when rejecting food becomes a regular thing? What if your child is a fussy eater? And how can you ensure that they still receive the nutrition they need for their growth and development? We’ve got it all covered!

Fussy Eater Problems: Why Are Children Fussy?

Before anything else, a bit of good news: Having a child who is a fussy eater can be perfectly normal. During early childhood, children are developing personal preferences and independence1. And one way they can assert this is by saying no to food. Just as saying "no" is a big milestone for a two-year-old, picky eating helps toddlers and young children say, "This is me. I don't like this. And I can do what I want." While this can be trying for parents, it's a normal stage of child development.

It's important to note that there are times when picky eating is a sign of psychological distress. Long-term picky eating can be a sign of this, according to researchers from Duke University, and can result in anxiety and depression2. If you suspect that your child's picky eating problems are affecting their physical or mental health, don't hesitate to discuss it with your child's doctor.

Nutritional Needs of Children

According to The Ministry of Health Singapore, toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 years old need around 810 to 1,080 calories a day3. Little ones in this age group are notorious for having erratic habits, choosing to wolf down everything in sight 

"Yucky!" your child says, and you throw away another plate of half-eaten food. It happens to all parents sooner or later. Every child can be picky about their food at times. But what do you do when rejecting food becomes a regular thing? What if your child is a fussy eater? And how can you ensure that they still receive the nutrition they need for their growth and development? We’ve got it all covered!

Fussy Eater Problems: Why Are Children Fussy?

Before anything else, a bit of good news: Having a child who is a fussy eater can be perfectly normal. During early childhood, children are developing personal preferences and independence1. And one way they can assert this is by saying no to food. Just as saying "no" is a big milestone for a two-year-old, picky eating helps toddlers and young children say, "This is me. I don't like this. And I can do what I want." While this can be trying for parents, it's a normal stage of child development.

It's important to note that there are times when picky eating is a sign of psychological distress. Long-term picky eating can be a sign of this, according to researchers from Duke University, and can result in anxiety and depression2. If you suspect that your child's picky eating problems are affecting their physical or mental health, don't hesitate to discuss it with your child's doctor.

Nutritional Needs of Children

According to The Ministry of Health Singapore, toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 years old need around 810 to 1,080 calories a day3. Little ones in this age group are notorious for having erratic habits, choosing to wolf down everything in sight one day then skipping meals the next. But providing nutritious meals and snacks at regular times should be enough to provide for their nutritional needs.

Variety is at the heart of your child's nutrition. By giving them different kinds of food from different food groups every meal time, you can be reasonably sure they're getting the right balance of macro and micronutrients.

To make providing balanced nutrition easy, Singapore’s Health Promotion Board developed My Healthy Plate, a simple method that tells parents how much of each food group they should give their child on every plate4.

My Healthy Plate
Source: Health Promotion Board - My Healthy Plate

Tips for Feeding Fussy Eaters

While a child's nutritional needs may be simple, how to handle picky eaters most definitely is not! As any parent knows, fussy eaters will test your patience.

To help parents ensure their child's nutritional needs are met, we've prepared a few simple tips. To start, feed your child a few meals following the My Healthy Plate guidelines and don't force them to finish their food. By studying their leftovers, you will quickly realise what part of their diet they are missing. And knowing this, you will be able to take action with the following tips:

For the Fussy Eater Who Avoids Fibre

Toddlers are famous for saying “no” to fibre-rich vegetables and fruits. To get them to eat more veggies, why not serve veggies first while your child is still hungry? Or you can try and serve fruits and veggies as snacks throughout the day. Or make eating vegetables their idea: let them choose the veggies they want to eat.

For the Fussy Eater Who Skips Carbohydrates/Grains

Sometimes, children will selectively eat one kind of food, say, chicken nuggets, for days, skipping everything else, including important carbohydrates. Don't give in to this. Serve them a variety of foods and they will eat when they are hungry.

For the Fussy Eater Who Doesn't Like Protein

Protein is an important building block for various parts of the body. It also helps to repair body tissues and regulates body functions. Parents may get worried when their children do not consume protein in their diet. However, children can get sufficient amounts of protein from milk, in addition to other protein-rich foods such as meat and eggs5.

For the Fussy Eater Who Is Picky with Textures and Colours

Many children get fixated on eating only white or beige food. Others refuse to eat food that's "chewy" or "too crunchy". Should parents give in to these strange requests? Well, the answer is yes and no. You can always go along with their preferences and find ways to serve the same food in different ways -- especially if you're worried they're not eating enough. You can mash the food, make soups or smoothies, or make burger patties to match the food they actually do eat. Try pairing in a meal, a food that you are trying to get them to eat, with one of their favourite foods. This may make them more receptive to trying the new food. You can also let them help out in food preparation, allowing them to explore different textures of food in the kitchen and be more open to trying the dish/meal that they helped to prepare.

At the end of the day, if you give your child a variety of food for a balanced diet, you're already halfway to the goal of meeting their nutritional needs. Being a fussy eater is usually a normal, temporary part of child development. Keep trying, be patient, have fun, and be creative while not minding the mess that may come along with it!

Interested in more tips to handle picky or fussy eaters? Join the Enfamama A+ Club today and find out more on what kind of nutrients you can infuse into your fussy eating toddler’s diet on a daily basis.


REFERENCES:
1. Picky Eating: A Toddler’s Approach to Mealtimes; ProQuest. Accessed from
https://www.proquest.com/docview/199426195?pq-origsite=gscholar
2. When picky eating is a sign of psychological distress; Wiley Online Library. Accessed from
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cbl.30084
3.Recommended Dietary Allowances; HealthHub SG. Accessed from
https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/192/recommended_dietary_allowances
4. My Healthy Plate; HealthHub SG. Accessed from
https://www.healthhub.sg/programmes/55/my-healthy-plate
5. Beyond Chicken Nuggets: Protein-Rich Alternatives for Picky Eaters; American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed from
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Beyond-Chicken-Nuggets.aspx