Nutrition and fussy eaters

fussy eating

According to Better Health Channel, half of Australian toddlers refuse a new food at least 50 percent of the time. They are fussy eaters but did you know that it could be in their genes?

Researchers from Norway and the United Kingdom found that 46% of food fussiness and 58% of food neophobia (rejection of a new food) can be explained by genes. 

The study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry also found that environmental factors (home, food presentation, parent roles and mealtime dynamics) exert an equal effect to genes on food fussiness and a smaller effect on food neophobia. This suggests that parents or carers can play an important role in shaping better eating habits. 

According to Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology King’s College London, a predisposition to be a fussy eater is not fixed because parents can modify it by changing family and mealtime habits. 

Tips to help fussy eating:

The Mayo Clinic has 10 good tips for parents with fussy eaters.

• Respect their appetite (or lack of it)
• Stick to the routine
• Be patient
• Keep the child at the table (even if they do not eat)
• Be a role model
• Minimise mealtime distractions
• Involve the child (with the shopping and cooking)
• Be creative with the food
• Make mealtimes fun
• Don’t bribe 

There is evidence to show that unhealthy and fussy eating habits developed in childhood can continue to adulthood which is all the more reason why you should stay calm, be realistic about how much your child is eating (always remembering that the child will not deliberately starve him/herself) and make mealtimes a fun adventure that he/she will want to be part of. 

Parents should also be aware that other factors could affect a child’s appetite for example illness, tiredness or emotional stress. Understanding their moods can give you better control over their health and well-being.

Getting help

If you have concerns that fussy eating is affecting your child’s growth and development please consult your doctor or a dietitian. 

Hardy Nutrition has trained dietitians who can plot your child’s growth and help you design an eating plan that can help him/her achieve desired milestones. Getting the big picture goes a long way in easing your stress.