Should I get help for my fussy eater? Here’s the lowdown
Many parents and caregivers worry about what their children eat and don't eat and are unsure how best to handle the challenges of their children's eating. 
The first 3-4 years of life are really important to set the foundation for good eating habits throughout life.  This is particularly important with regard to how varied a child's diet is: if it is limited in these first years, it will probably continue to remain this way.   
Let’s start with two popular beliefs around fussy eating:
1. It is a ‘normal phase' for many toddlers, for example, at around 18 months toddlers naturally become more wary about eating foods that they haven’t seen regularly as a baby. In addition toddlers are becoming more independent and may show this by refusing to eat foods they happily ate before, such as porridge. While it is a phase for many toddlers, a significant percentage don’t grow out of fussy eating. What starts out as a phase can quite easily and sometimes quickly develop into a more long-term habit, often without us realising it.
2. She or he will outgrow fussy eating.  Increasingly more and more children don’t outgrow their eating habits without some change of approach. This happens for many reasons such as when we eat a limited number of foods, we often eat these foods very frequently. We can therefore get so tired of eating the same foods, that we want to stop eating the foods altogether. This may explain why some children refuse to eat foods that they previously liked, for example, some types of fruit.
If your child does not usually eat a healthy, balanced or varied diet and you have tried different approaches, you may wonder should you seek expert help.
Here are some reasons to seek help for a child’s eating:
  • Your child has experienced weight loss or isn't growing. This is a major concern.  Of course multiple causes can be at play here and medical factors need to be investigated or ruled out, then a limited diet can be explored.
  • A child has a limited range of foods that they will eat; or this is declining over time.
  • A child eats an unbalanced diet, often eating lots of carbohydrates and very little or any of other food groups especially vegetables. 
  • A child has strong likes or dislikes for foods including certain textures or foods not touching. 
  • A child is unwilling to try other foods and may want to eat only their favourite foods.
  • A child mainly eats different foods from the rest of the family. These different foods are often ‘kid friendly’ foods, which are less healthy options such as those deep fried or foods covered in breadcrumbs.
  • A child doesn’t like small changes in their food such as a different brand to usual.
One simple way of determining if your child has a varied diet is to write down everything they eat for a few days. Then categorise each food according to the four main food groups, (carbohydrates, proteins, fruit and vegetables).
Sometimes this can be very revealing for example, you may realise that your child’s diet is dominated by various forms of carbohydrates (such as pasta, cereal and bread) or certain textures such as dry, crunchy foods.
You may feel you would benefit from expert guidance if any of the following apply:
  • Meal times are stressful.
  • You would like to be proactive, to avoid fussy eating and create lifelong healthy eating habits.
  • You are unsure how best to handle a child’s eating.
  • A  child’s eating is adversely affecting them such as constipation or reduced immunity.
Finally, the longer unhealthy eating habits continue, the more challenging it can be to turn around so seeking expert help sooner rather than later may be best.
Written by Dr. Colette Reynolds, Nutrition and Child’s Healthy Eating Coach and founder of Growing Healthy Eaters as well as being Mum to 2 young boys. Growing Healthy Eaters provides one-to-one personalised parent support online.
For more visit:
Children's Healthy Eating Coach