What is fussy eating? 1

Studies show that up to 50% of caregivers believe their children are fussy eaters.1 Have you noticed that your child who was once easy to feed is fussy about food and rejects most of the healthy food items you give them? Have they taken a liking to a certain food and want to have it at every meal? Are mealtimes characterised by arguments and stress? These are just some of the signs that your child may be a fussy eater.

At some point, most parents are confronted with the challenges of their children’s eating habits. Certain behaviours often surprise and trouble parents who genuinely want to ensure healthy eating habits for their children. Does your child exhibit one or more of the following?

  • Refuses to eat
  • Plays with their food
  • Eats less than usual
  • Dislikes certain food groups such as fruit, meat or milk
  • Dislikes chewing
  • Demands the same food at every meal
  • Prefers junk food to healthy food
  • Makes a mess at the table
  • Throws tantrums at mealtimes
  • Children have a natural tendency to imitate the eating behaviours of adults and other children
  • Fussy eating could be a reaction to punishment or “food rewards” given to ensure food consumption
  • Changes in appetite are often associated with overall growth changes
  • They could be sensitive to a particular taste, smell or texture
  • Some children dislike the colour or texture of certain foods

Children that are fussy eaters may not be achieving the required nutrition to support the essential needs of a healthy growing child. Associated risks include:

Deficiency disorders – The food we eat contains various nutrients, each of which plays an important part to help the body function properly. For this reason it is important to incorporate all the important food groups.

Poor eating habits – Research shows that the best time to develop healthy eating habits is during childhood when your child develops tastes for food. The correct combination of food groups improves growth and appetite.

Low immunity – Poor eating habits may weaken your child’s immunity, which, particularly in winter, could lead to an increased risk of infection.

Dental caries – Fussy eaters sometimes have a preference for sugary foods such as sweets and chocolates that may cause dental problems including cavities. Good oral hygiene and healthy eating will help to encourage permanent teeth that last a lifetime.

Low energy levels – Childhood is all about learning and exploration, which requires good nutrition for an adequate supply of energy.

Obesity – If your fussy eater prefers foods rich in fat and energy they may be prone to becoming overweight and suffering from obesity. In today’s modern world obesity is an increasing problem. It is caused by higher calorie consumption than calories used. Obese children often become obese adults, which may lead to other associated diseases later in life.


Stop arguing with your child about their untouched food. Try delicious, vanilla or chocolate Pediasure® Complete all-in-one nutritional drink for children. It gives your child all the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong. 2

  • Contains all 28 vitamins and minerals
  • Supports brain development because it provides essential Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids 3
  • Supports immune system function and may reduce both the incidence of sick days and use of antibiotics in children 4
  • Contains iron to support rapid growth and promote catch-up growth 5
  • Provides all the vital micronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and calories in correct proportions to meet energy requirements and encourage healthy weight gain

Step 1: Manage mealtimes by establishing set meal and snack times
Step 2: Help your child to choose healthy foods by making the right foods available to them
Step 3: Make mealtime family time where all members of the family sit together and eat the same meals together
Step 4: Avoid watching television and other distractions that may lead to a disinterest in food
Step 5: Learn to understand your child’s hunger signals
Step 6: Consistently offer new healthy foods but introduce one new food at a time instead of serving a completely new meal
Step 7: Serve small portion sizes when introducing new foods and gradually move on to bigger portions
Step 8: Resist the urge to give your child sweets and fried foods to encourage them to eat
Step 9: Look for fun, creative ways to educate your child about the benefits of healthy eating and an active lifestyle
Step 10: Encourage self-respect and self-acceptance and never criticise your child’s body type
For more information call 086 122 6887, visit www.abbottnutrition.co.za, or join our community on www.facebook.com/PediasureSA

Please Note: This is an information leaflet only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. For more information on fussy eating, its diagnosis and treatment, speak to your healthcare provider.


References – Further Reading:

  1. Carruth B et al. Prevalence of Picky Eaters among infants and Toddlers and their Caregiver’s Decisions about offering a New Food. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2004;104:S57-S64.
  2. PediaSure Complete product label
  3. Krause’s Food, Nutrition and Diet therapy- 10th ed. Mahan and Escott-Stump p94, p101, p138, p190, p192.
  4. Leyer GJ et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009;124(2):e172-179
  5. Alaracon PA et al. Effect of oral supplementation on catch-up growth in picky eaters. Clinical Pediatrics 2003; 42:209-217
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