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Fussy Eating - If your child is an unpredictable eater, you are not alone...



  • Fussy eating occurs when a child is unwilling to eat new foods at least half of the time; 
  • Fussy eating is a normal part of your child’s development;
  • If your child is a fussy eater, don’t stress – there are many ways to cope with fussy eating;
  • Nutritional supplements can help ensure that your child is getting the nutrition they need.


What is fussy eating?

Fussy eating is a common behaviour in children. It entails an unwillingness to try new foods, and having strong preferences for certain familiar foods. A toddler who refuses to try a new food at least half of the time is considered a fussy eater.

There are many reasons that a child might refuse to eat a certain food, including:

  • not liking the taste, shape, colour and texture of particular foods;
  • digestive issues or nutrient deficiencies;
  • changing energy needs as they grow;
  • wanting to assert their independence or control; or
  • conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


How do you know if your child is a fussy eater?

Healthcare professionals define a fussy eater as a child who shows some or all of the following characteristics:

  • only accepts a limited range of foods
  • has a fear of new foods;
  • eats very slowly;
  • shows limited appetite or has an appetite that varies from day to day;
  • quietly spits food out that is tasted and not liked;
  • balks at the shape, smell, colour or texture of food;
  • requests the same food repeatedly;
  • has meltdowns or displays some level of anxiety when it’s mealtime;
  • is distracted at mealtimes; or
  • has specific expectations around food presentation (e.g. will not accept foods that touch each other).


Top Tips for dealing with a fussy eater

It can be frustrating to deal with a fussy eater – but you are not alone! There are many strategies that parents can adopt at mealtimes to make them less stressful for themselves and their children.


1. Get your child involved in preparing meals

Allow your child to explore the food they eat through touching, smelling or tasting while preparing meals. This helps familiarise children with the smells and textures of a wide range of foods, and can help stimulate their appetite, making them more receptive to the food when it is eventually served.


2. Make the food look appetising and fun.

Giving your child a plate with bite-sized portions that are easy to navigate and encourage your child to try new foods. Try to incorporate a range of colours and shapes into their plate to make mealtimes fun rather than daunting.


3. Try to hide your frustration

While this can be easier said than done, it is important to try not to stress or show your toddler that you are becoming frustrated with their refusal to eat certain foods. Concentrate on making mealtimes a fun time. One way to do this is by incorporating a reward system, like stickers for eating new foods to encourage children to try unfamiliar foods at mealtimes.


4. Offer foods to children from a young age

Offer a wide range of foods to children from a young age with a variety of textures, smells, shapes and sizes. This can broaden their food appreciation, and reduce their likelihood of developing fussy eating habits towards new foods.


5. Set a good example

Children often emulate the behaviours they see in their parents. If you are a fussy eater yourself, don’t limit the foods that you give to your children. For example, just because you may have an aversion to yoghurt it doesn’t mean that your child won’t like it. Your child may have different taste preferences to you.


The Takeaway - Don’t Panic!

While frustrating and stressful, fussy eating is a normal part of children’s development. Up to two thirds of parents identify their children as 'picky' eaters. It can be difficult to cope with fussy eaters, with feeding times turning into a battle of wills or a source of stress for many parents. It is therefore important to understand why your child is refusing to eat certain foods.

As with everything in life, children are learning and exploring their world. Young children need time (often years) to develop a liking and trust for a particular food. This process happens over time and many factors influence how their taste buds develop. As children enter the toddler stage, they become more aware of the food being served to them, and they may commonly resist these unfamiliar meals. This can lead to potential nutritional gaps, with 9 out of 10 kids not consuming their recommended 5 serves of vegetables per day.


Want to make sure your fussy eater is getting all the nutrition they need?

Superior Health Care has a wide range of products to help you ensure that your young child is getting the nutrition that they need. Many of these products are covered under NDIS. Some of the products that Superior Health Care keeps include: 

Superior Health Care is a registered NDIS provider, and can assist in coordinating the supply of these nutritional products. To find out more, call 1800 87 87 22 or email Alternatively, leave your contact details on the enquiry form on our site. 


If you are concerned about your child’s eating behaviours, speak to your GP, Accredited Practising Dietitian or contact your paediatrician.