Picky Eaters Toddlers Solution:
8 Tips to Avoid Fussy Eating
Summary: Have confusion about the differences between picky eaters and fussy eating? Why kids are refusing beans and other delicious foods that you think are good for their health? How to deal with a fussy baby? How to get a child to eat when they refuse? There are different reasons why kids are fussy eating, from physical to environmental factors. In this article, we offer you corresponding suggestions on how to deal with picky eaters.
Table of Content
Picky eater has some sort of food neophobia. They are reluctant to accept new foods. These eating habits will result in lacking nutrition, protein, or vitamin. However, it is lucky that these picky eating behavior are temporary phases and if try several times, your kids will accept these foods or even love them.
Fussy eaters are different. They sometimes reject foods that they used to love. Their obvious pattern is inconsistency, they love this food today, and they hate it tomorrow.
1. Can Kids Be Both Picky and Fussy Eating?
Yes, of course. Kids can be both picky and fussy eating simultaneously. They may have a limited range of food preferences (picky eating) while also being particular about various sensory aspects of their meals (fussy eating). Raising a kid is so challenging, I rarely heard someone saying that their kids always eat up what they prepare, kids are either picky or fussy or both, at different ages. Some when they are a few months old, some at their 2-year old, and some even at 10+ years old. It is important to understand the specific characteristics and behaviors exhibited by a child to address their unique eating challenges effectively.
- Refusing to eat certain foods: Picky eaters may refuse to eat specific foods based on their appearance, smell, or even past negative experiences. They may have a strong aversion to certain tastes or textures, making it difficult for them to accept those foods.
- Only eating certain textures or colors: Some picky eaters have a preference for specific textures, such as crunchy or smooth, and may avoid foods with textures they find unpleasant. Similarly, they may prefer foods of a particular color and show resistance to foods of other colors.
- Preferring processed or junk food over whole foods: Picky eaters may develop a preference for highly processed or unhealthy foods due to their familiar taste, texture, or added sugars and flavorings. These foods often lack essential nutrients found in whole foods.
- Avoiding vegetables or fruits: Picky eaters commonly show resistance to consuming vegetables or fruits, which are important sources of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. This aversion can limit their intake of essential nutrients.
- Having a limited palate: Picky eaters typically have a narrow range of foods they are willing to eat. They may stick to a handful of familiar and safe options, resulting in a lack of dietary variety and potential nutrient deficiencies.
- Being hesitant to try new foods: Picky eaters often experience anxiety or fear when presented with unfamiliar foods. They may worry about the taste, texture, or potential negative consequences of trying new foods, which leads to avoidance behavior.
- Feeling overwhelmed by too many food choices: Picky eaters may struggle when presented with a wide variety of food options. They may find it challenging to make decisions and feel overwhelmed by the abundance of choices, leading to a preference for familiar foods.
- Being bored of eating the same foods repeatedly: Picky eaters may develop a strong attachment to specific foods and become resistant to trying new ones. They may find comfort in the predictability and familiarity of their limited food choices, leading to a repetitive eating pattern.
- Being sensitive to strong tastes or smells: Picky eaters may have heightened sensitivity to strong flavors, such as bitterness or spiciness, or intense food aromas. These sensory experiences can be overwhelming and deter them from trying or accepting certain foods.
Kids don’t exactly hate the foods, sometimes it is the textures, temperatures, or the way it looks that make your kids feel gross. Potato chips are one of the best love of kids, however, your fussy toddler won’t like them if they are exposed to the air for long because they tasted bad. So, texture and temperatures are the keys as well. That’s why your girl doesn’t like steamed peas but can accept frozen peas out of the bag.
- Being unwilling to eat foods that touch each other on the plate: Some picky eaters have a condition known as food neophobia, which is a fear or avoidance of new or unfamiliar foods. This can extend to a strong aversion to foods touching each other on the plate, and they may prefer to eat each item separately. If the food is touched by one another, they won’t eat it.
Picky eaters often develop specific food aversions within various food categories. These aversions can be influenced by a combination of factors, including taste preferences, sensory sensitivities, past experiences, and a reluctance to step out of their comfort zone. Understanding these categories and the specific food examples that picky eaters tend to reject can provide valuable insights into their eating habits. Here is a detailed exploration of the food categories picky eaters commonly dislike, and the reason why they don’t like the food:
Picky eaters frequently struggle with vegetables due to their unique flavors, textures, and appearances. Bitter-tasting vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale may be particularly challenging for them to accept. The earthy and sometimes fibrous textures of root vegetables like beets or turnips can also be off-putting. Additionally, the strong aroma of certain vegetables, like onions or garlic, may deter picky eaters who are more sensitive to smells.
Seafood often poses a significant challenge for picky eaters. The strong smell and distinct flavors of fish and shellfish can be overwhelming for those with sensitive palates. Examples include fish varieties such as salmon, mackerel, or anchovies, as well as shellfish like shrimp, clams, or oysters. The unique textures and appearances of seafood, such as the flaky texture of cooked fish or the sliminess of raw oysters, can also contribute to their rejection.
Picky eaters may have an aversion to foods with bold spices and herbs. Ingredients like curry, cilantro, cumin, or ginger can have strong and distinctive flavors that can overpower their taste buds. The unfamiliarity of these flavors may make them hesitant to try new dishes or cuisines that heavily rely on spices and herbs.
Some picky eaters are particularly sensitive to strong flavors. Foods like blue cheese, strong-tasting aged cheeses, anchovies, or pungent fermented products can be overpowering for their taste buds. These intense flavors can be challenging for individuals who prefer milder tastes or have heightened sensitivity to certain flavors.
Picky eaters often struggle with foods that have unfamiliar textures. For example, tofu, tempeh, or quinoa may be rejected due to their unique mouthfeel, which can be perceived as slimy, spongy, or gritty. Similarly, foods with contrasting textures, such as mixed textures in casseroles or dishes with crunchy and soft components, can be off-putting for picky eaters who prefer consistent textures.
1.1. Sensory Processing Disorder: Feel Yukky of Bitter Food But Prefer Sweet Ones
Does your extremely picky eater toddler hate raw onions, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and peas which you think is delicious? Well, the truth is, kids, have more taste buds than adults. They are more sensitive to sweet and bitter. People have about 10,000 taste buds which will be replaced every 2 weeks. But as people ages, taste buds stop updating and begin reducing. According to some research, an older person average has 5,000 working taste buds, and adults who smoke or are obese might have fewer taste buds. That’s why kids have a stronger taste for certain food than grown-ups.
1.2. Food allergies or intolerances:
Allergies or intolerances to certain foods can cause discomfort or pain when consumed. This can lead to an avoidance of those foods to prevent negative physical reactions, such as digestive issues, skin rashes, or allergic reactions.
1.3. Gastrointestinal problems:
Conditions like acid reflux, heartburn, constipation, and other digestive issues can cause discomfort or pain during or after eating. As a result, individuals may develop aversions to certain foods that trigger these symptoms.
1.4. Low appetite regulation hormones:
Hormonal imbalances or deficiencies related to appetite regulation can affect a person’s hunger cues, satiety signals, and overall appetite. This can lead to reduced interest in food, specific food preferences, or irregular eating patterns.
2.1. Sensory sensitivity:
Individuals with heightened sensory sensitivity may have overreactive taste buds, a hyperactive sense of smell, or texture aversion. They may find certain tastes, smells, or textures overwhelming or unpleasant, leading to a restricted food intake.
2.2. Anxiety or stress:
Anxiety or stress, particularly related to specific foods or mealtime situations, can contribute to picky eating. Fear of trying new foods, concerns about food safety, or worries about negative experiences can create a negative association with food and eating.
2.3. Control issues:
Even if you don’t directly force your child to eat all the peas you prepare, he/she might still feel pressured if you focus too much on what to eat and how much to eat during the meal. Other indirect pressure comes from your lecturing her/his lack of eating something is not good for growing up or your trying to spoon-feed him/her when he/she’s slowing down her eating. Some children may use food as a way to assert control over their environment or express their autonomy. Power struggles with parents, attention-seeking behavior, and a need for independence can contribute to picky eating patterns.
2.4. Need Engagement and Make Their Decision
Every single person pursues the right to make decisions on their own, of course, kids included. You can give your kids an opportunity to prepare and make him/her own meal so that they won’t find that they have no control over what they are going to eat.
2.5. Traumatic experiences:
Negative experiences associated with food, such as illness or food poisoning, pressure to eat certain foods, or negative comments or punishment related to food, can lead to aversions and avoidance behaviors.
2.6. Neurodevelopmental disorders:
Conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can impact food preferences and intake. Sensory sensitivities, rigidity in routines, and challenges with trying new foods are commonly observed in individuals with these conditions.
3.1. Mealtime environment:
Sometimes, kids don’t eat food or eat very slowly because they are occupied with other things: Watching TV, playing with their favorite toys, or playing games on their smartphones. These will distract your child from eating his/her meal even though they are starving. They don’t feel that because they are so focused. Inconsistent mealtime routines or a lack of structure can affect a child’s appetite and willingness to try new foods.
3.2. Learned behavior:
Children may learn picky eating behaviors by observing parents, siblings, or peers. If they witness others exhibiting food aversions or preferences, they may imitate those behaviors and develop their own selective eating habits.
4.1. Too Tired to Eat
If you find your kids eating very slowly or can’t keep their eyes on food, especially for dinner, it is possible that your kids get extremely tired after a day of learning in school and playing with friends. They are too exhausted to even send food into their mouth.
If this happens frequently, I will suggest that you check the sleep chart for kids and make an adjustment to your son’s/daughter’s rest timetable. An earlier dinner and go to back earlier will be recommended. Or a morning nap or afternoon nap should be added so as to make sure your kids are energetic enough to play with their friends and for dinner. You can reference this bedtime schedule for your kids correspondingly.
4.2. Too Full to Eat
To give our kids as much nutrition as he/she needs, we make different kinds of healthy food for picky eaters. Milk, fresh orange juice, vegetables, meat, beans, and some other snacks. It is very likely that our kids are too full when it’s time for having their dinner or lunch after having a full bottle of milk. So, kids aren’t interested in your meals merely because he/she is not physically hungry. Besides, milk contains fat and protein which will make a satiating effect to make kids feel full. If your kids don’t have any other foods or drink but simply eat less than usual, it is possibly because kids have a much more stable and slow growth after 2 years old so they don’t eat as much as they used to.
Toddlers need less than 2 cups of milk each day. We highly suggest that you offer 0.5 cups respectively for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and left another 0.5 cup before bedtime. As a parent, you’d better prepare yogurt or fruit for your kids’ snack and better refuse dessert and french fries which contains sugar and fat.
1. Nutritional deficiencies:
Picky eaters often have a limited variety of foods in their diet, which can result in inadequate intake of essential nutrients. They may miss out on important vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds found in a diverse range of foods. This can lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and fiber, which are crucial for growth, development, and overall health.
2. Poor immune function:
A diet lacking in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods can weaken the immune system, making picky eaters more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
3. Growth and development issues:
Insufficient nutrient intake due to picky eating can interfere with normal growth and development in children. It may affect proper bone development, muscle growth, and cognitive development.
4. Emotional and social implications:
Picky eating can cause stress and frustration for both the picky eater and their family members. Mealtime conflicts, pressure to eat, and constant negotiations around food can create tension and negatively impact the overall family dynamics. Picky eaters may also feel socially isolated or different from their peers, leading to feelings of embarrassment or anxiety in social situations involving food.
1. Encouraging Independence
Encourage self-feeding: Allowing the child to feed themselves can give them a sense of control and independence. Offer age-appropriate utensils and consider using cute lunch boxes and utensils designed to make eating more engaging and enjoyable.
Family-style meals: Kids might get bored with what you serve them, so new cuisine should be added to the menu. Ask your kids for help while deciding on their menu, shopping for veggies, and more, to get him/her participated in the process of making the meal. Make themselves a meal, I mean plan their own menu table, buy foods from the supermarket with you, wash vegetables, mix ingredients together, or do any other simple steps when preparing or cooking the meal. Once you keep your kids engaged in deciding their own menu, they are more eager to eat them up happily. Serve meals in a family-style setting where different dishes are placed on the table. This allows the child to choose what and how much they want to eat, fostering independence and exploration.
2. Offering Variety
Offer a variety of foods: Parents are not Michelin chefs. They can’t cook attractive, appetizing, flavorful meals without repeating them. However, we can add some variety to the meal so that you can keep your kids surprised and keep yourself passionate about cooking meals; Continuously expose the child to a wide range of foods from different food groups. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy or dairy alternatives, and vary the cooking methods.
Creative and attractive foods in bento boxes: Create visually appealing and interactive meals by arranging different foods in the compartments of a bento box. Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes out of fruits, vegetables, and sandwiches to make mealtime more exciting. Keep your mind open when preparing the meal for your kids. If your kids love Spiderman, Superman, Mario, or Frozen, you can try adding these elements to your kids’ meals. He/she would love it and eat their meals. Name a catchy name will also make some difference. Think about X-Ray vision carrots vs. carrots.
3. Sensory approaches: modifying taste and texture
Gradual exposure: Introduce new foods gradually and repeatedly, as it may take several exposures before a child accepts a new food. Start with small portions and gradually increase the amount over time.
Texture modifications: If the child has aversions to certain textures, experiment with different cooking techniques. For example, if they dislike the crunchiness of raw vegetables, try steaming or roasting them to soften the texture.
4. Be Positive and Encourage Self-Feeding
Avoid force-feeding or pressuring the child: Pressuring a child to eat can create negative associations with food and mealtimes. Instead, create a relaxed and positive atmosphere during meals, even though your little one is messing everywhere up, allow him/her to take their time. Create a relaxed and positive atmosphere during meals, where the focus is on enjoying the experience rather than the quantity of food consumed.
Positive reinforcement: Recognize and praise the child’s efforts in trying new foods or taking small steps towards expanding their food choices. Use positive language and offer words of encouragement to reinforce their progress.
5. Food Exploration
Food-tasting game: Turn mealtime into a fun and interactive activity by playing a food-tasting game. Blindfold the child and have them taste different foods, including fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other items with varying tastes, and textures. Encourage the child to touch, smell, and taste each item and guess what they are. This can help reduce anxiety and make trying new foods more exciting.
6. Keep Kids Away from Distraction
Keep Toys, TVs, and Digital devices away: To solve this, the first thing we can do is to put aside our laptops, cell phones, or tablets ourselves. Then, tell your kids that it is not right to use electronic devices or toys for babies and more when it’s mealtime. Sit down and share more time with your kids for family bonding. Talk about school, work, and other interesting topics to keep mealtime happier, memorable, and comfortable. And only allow devices when they finish their dishes.
7. Seeking Professional Help
Consult with a healthcare professional: If picky eating persists and affects the child’s growth or overall well-being, seek guidance from a healthcare professional, such as a pediatrician or registered dietitian. They can evaluate the child’s nutritional needs, provide specific recommendations, and address any underlying health concerns.
Counseling: In some cases, picky eating may be linked to underlying psychological factors or emotional issues. Consider seeking counseling or therapy to explore and address any underlying anxiety, sensory issues, or behavioral challenges that may contribute to the picky eating behavior.
It seems like your 4-year-old picky eater kids are just refusing your dishes no matter what you prepare, even if you tell them that these are good for their health. You might think that they are merely naughty and don’t want to listen to you. In fact, almost every parent has encountered fussy-eating kids no matter toddlers or teenagers, it is a normal rite of passage. But thankfully, it is just a fleeting stage, mostly a year or two. By knowing the reasons after that, you can do the right thing to fix your picky eating disorder.
Age and developmental stages play a role in food preferences and acceptance. Infants and toddlers are learning to eat and explore new foods, while preschoolers and elementary-aged children are developing their food preferences. Adolescents and emerging adults may be influenced by self-image concerns, social acceptance, and personal values related to food.
That’s all. You can check these reasons and see why your kids refuse the foods you provide and do your best to help your kids accept as many foods as they can to intake enough nutrition. You can also check the related post on how to get toddlers to eat: Toddler Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters.