Toddlers grow at a slower rate than babies and have irregular appetites. As a result, they can be very particular about the kinds of food they eat, as well as the amount. Some preschool-aged children can also be fussy eaters. In these circumstances, it is the responsibility of adults to provide healthy food options and encourage children to taste each different food. It is up to the child to decide how much of the food he or she will eat. Do not make a fuss, as this places extra focus on the food and can make the situation worse.
For most children who are healthy, active and growing well, there is no need to worry about fussy eating. If a child excludes an entire food group or has a very limited range of foods for an extended period of time, a referral to an Accredited Practising Dietitian may be helpful.
Some tips for managing fussy eaters include the following:
- Make sure that the child has not filled up on drinks or sometimes foods before a meal or snack.
- Maintain a regular mealtime routine.
- Make the mealtime enjoyable and not stressful.
- Ensure that you are modelling healthy eating behaviours.
- Continue to offer foods that have been previously refused. Sometimes children need to be exposed to a new food a few times before they will even taste it.
- Set a time limit of 20–30 minutes for a meal. After this time, remove any uneaten food and let the child leave the table. Do not offer alternative food or drinks until the next planned meal or snack.