Tag Archives: fussy eating

Fussy Eating and mental health?

This week a new research paper was published in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal:

“Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers with selective eating” 

I was asked to comment on it for a local radio station – Wave 105, you can listen to a snippet here: 


The study ran from 2007-2010 and looked at over 900 picky eaters, aged 2-5 years of age. They found that children with severe fussy eating habits were more than twice as likely to have symptoms of depression or anxiety. Children with moderate fussy eating habits were more likely to suffer from ADHD and separation anxiety. Both groups of children were 1.7 times as likely to show symptoms of anxiety.

Now whilst this is an interesting study it is also one that could easily alarm parents. The key to note here is this study looked at children with moderate to severe fussy eating habits. All children go through fussy eating stages as part of their development. If you are concerned your child is not moving forward and is struggling long term with their eating patterns then think about approaching your health visitor, GP or seeing a dietitian.


Help, my child won’t eat his veggies!

We are firmly in a fussy eating stage, frustrating is the word. I currently have Miss K who will eat pretty much any fruit or vegetable and the J boy is decidedly anti-vegetables. I’ve tried explaining the evidence behind why vegetables are so good for you, talking him through the nutritional benefits (I know, he is only 22 months right now but they understand more than we think, right?)… but he still insists on not eating that veg. His current trick is to pick up a carrot, tell me rabbits eat them and pop it on my plate. Hilarious.

Dietitian UK: Help my child won't eat vegetables!

To be fair we have been through very bad chicken pox, an infection and now teething, so I fully well know why he is being fussy. However it still grates with me.

So I’ve been coming up with all kinds of inventive ways to get those veggies in. I’ve found that actually he likes the taste but is less keen on them in their whole form.  Grated is fine, added to muffins and flapjacks is fine, chopped up small on pinwheels works, blended in a sauce is all ok, but not in chunks on the plate. However I have persistently kept on offering them at each meal, hoping it will pay off. We have a few fail safe options including raw mushrooms, baked beans and spinach, kale or chard. 

Then today at lunchtime, a complete surprise. The J boy asked for avocado, not unusual as his sister was having some and he hates to be left out. I reluctantly gave him some expecting to get it put back on my plate in a squished, licked form… but he ate it and asked for more. 

© Alexstar | Dreamstime.com - Avocado Photo
© Alexstar | Dreamstime.com – Avocado Photo

So I’m just sharing for those of you in that frustrated place. It will pass. Fussy eating does not last for ever. 

All we can do as parents is to keep on offering healthy food, be good role models, stay calm and let them choose with no pressure.

Fussy Eating: Is it a stage?

There seem to be stages in a child’s development when they go through a more fussy stage. I often see questions in parenting groups about fussy eaters and having 2 children on my own I’ve been through a few fussy eating stages myself. There does seem to be a pattern.

Dietitian UK: Baby Eats Salmon and Spring Vegetable Risotto

 So why may a child have a stage of fussy eating?

  1. Teething. If their mouth hurts it fairly likely it will affect their eating. They may want to choose softer foods or want more milk and less solids. My daughter used to go back to only wanting puree for a few days. If you know they are teething, go with it, offer softer, soothing foods. Try soups, yoghurt, rice pudding, soft cereals, porridge fingers, scrambled egg, fruit purees. 
  2. It can be a developmental stage. For some children when they are learning something new it can affect their sleep, their need for cuddles and closeness and/or their eating. It is usually just a stage.
  3. They may be feeling unwell. Not wanting to eat is often an initial sign for me that my children may be coming down with a bug or are off-colour. Trying to force them to eat can be detrimental. I remember encouraging my daughter to finish her breakfast as we were going out on a long day trip… she vomited 3 times in the car!
  4. Eating for Attention? For some children they know the link between parents wanting them to eat healthily and getting more attention if they don’t. 
  5. A reaction to something else that is going on. Eating and choosing not to eat is one of the few things that young children have any control over. If they are upset about something or there has been a big change in life they may respond by communicating via their eating. 

Top Tips:

  1. Don’t stress out. Be as calm and composed about it as you can be.Your reaction is key. You child will be watching you. Getting upset or cross about their eating will not be helpful. I find it helpful to ask if there is a reason my children don’t want to eat something. Sometime it is a simple reason like it isn’t the right temperature or it has a mark on it. Easily fixed.
  2. If you are in a calm mood try negotiating that they try a few mouthfuls, but don’t let it get stressful. 
  3. Don’t make another meal. If mine do not eat dinner they can have 1 yoghurt and that is it. If they are hungry they know to eat what I’ve made. 
  4. Be a good role model. I can’t stress this enough. Children are sponges, they watch everything, they repeat everything. If you don’t eat vegetables how can you expect them to?
  5. This too will pass. If it is a phase then ride it out. If they are ill or tired that will pass. If it goes on for longer than a few weeks start to ask questions. You can always seek the advice of a dietitian. They are the experts.