One of the most surprising things about being a parent is my children are fussy eaters.

Actually it is eldest son Tommy who is the fussy eater and Chloe just copies Tommy. If Tommy yells “YUCK THAT IS DISGUSTING!” Chloe parrots her older brother in agreement.

Growing up in a Greek family in the 1970’s my siblings and I ate everything. From a very young age we ate: meat, fish vegetables, yoghurt, souvlaki, spanikopita, mousaka, octopus and when we would go out for dinner it would be Chinese, Japanese or Indian. There was nothing we did not like. Actually there was something – lambs brains. My father used to have fried lambs brains for breakfast – yuck.

I am disappointed I thought we would be one of those families taking eating sushi and Thai food – but no chance. When Tommy was at daycare they would serve delicious healthy lunches for all the children. For 3 years Tommy did not try the food once. I suggested to the daycare staff that I should bring him a sandwich but the they told me a hungry child will eventually eat but not our Tommy.

It was not always like this, I think the fussy eating started when Tommy was around 18 months old. He just stopped eating any meat and vegetables.  I was not sure if it was a control thing or he just did not like the taste.

I have some theories for why Tommy maybe such a fussy eater. Tommy’s birth weight was very low for his dates only 2.5kg and the ultrasound before his birth reveal his stomach was so off the charts small.

After Tommy was born it took a long time for him to put on weight – he also had reflux, which did not help. Tommy’s weight was so low at one point he may have had to go back to hospital if he did not put on weight. I wonder if this may have something to do with him being a fussy eater.

Tommy also hates cooking smells, if I am cooking meat, garlic or onions he thinks it absolutely disgusting, so I also wonder if it is because he has a very strong sense of smell and taste.

We have tried everything. I read up on what to do with fussy eaters and they all suggested to keep offering and offer small amounts of a variety of foods. The waste of food really got to me, it is upsetting when you cook a tasty, healthy meal and the kids will not touch it, no matter how frustrating as a parent the only thing you can do it keep trying.

We tried the hard line approach but it did not work – threats and being tough on him just made him dig his heals in. Then in desperation we tried begging and bribes. It just become an exhausting power struggle

I was so worried I went to see a pediatrician, who checked Tommy’s iron level and put him on an iron supplement for a while until his iron levels improved. The pediatrician recommended 3 servings of red meat a week to keep up his iron levels but at the same time told me not to stop worrying because he was doing really well. Tommy was in the top 95% for percentile for height and average weight and meeting all milestones.

Although Tommy is a fussy eater he has always liked fruit, cheese and yoghurt but prefers to stick to really simple food like plain pasta, bread, plain rice, and cereal.

I have read lots on the topic of fussy eaters and they recommend to keep on offering until they try it and get your children involved in the cooking process.  Many of the books did say that most kids grow out of being fussy at around 6 years and started to try more things in the early years at school. Tommy recently turned 6 and the change has been astounding – I honestly thought it would never happened but now he is eating meat and vegetables. He still hates cooking smells and it not yet trying anything exotic.

My advice is to stop worrying and just keep offering different types of food with no pressure. Most children who are fussy eaters and it is true most kids will grow out of it during their early school years.

For more information on coping with fussy eaters I highly recommend Carlos Gonzalez reassuring book “My Child Won’t Eat! How to enjoy mealtimes without worry”

Plum’s Facebook page number 1 top fan this week will received a copy of Carlos Gonzalez book “My Child Won’t Eat! How to enjoy mealtimes without worry”

*Images courtesy of Eugenie Pepper

  • yes keep trying there mumma. gotta get there eventually

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  • This was an interesting mini article. Thanks for posting!

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  • fussy eaters can be a nightmare, I have a couple of tem and seem to cook like a restaurant

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  • I was pleased to hear there may be light at the end of the tunnel!
    Everything I offer my 21 mo son he says no to and if it’s left in front of him at the table he tosses the plate!

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  • Very informative. thank you. will aid me with Aspergers Syndrome son.

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  • My niece is 6 & my nephew is 10. My daughter used to eat pretty much everything. Since she has been around them alot lately she has become really fussy in what she eats.

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  • I put my 3 yr old in childcare recently and she won’t eat the food they cook for her. It’s really nice but for some reason she won’t touch it even if they try to help her. We thinks she’s just copying other kids bad behaviour? What can I do?

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  • At least your child eats fruit. I struggle to get mine to eat 1/4 of an apple, wont touch most veges or meat either unless it’s processed so I wonder what vitamins she is getting. We have the basics, potato, corn, pasta, spaghetti, eggs. I know the feeling of slaving away trying to make a meal that I would think she would like but it doesn’t even get touched. Have been told to only give her what we are having & not to make anything special if she refuses it but then we have crying at 9 o’clock at night when she’s still not asleep because she’s hungry. I hope the book truly does help me cos I am at my wits ends with it.

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  • Thank goodness your son seems to be over the worst of it. Very tricky for him being so sensitive to cooking smells, he must feel terrible at times.

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  • Haven’t got any fussy esters as of yet. Was always brought up with “eat it or you don’t leave the table” which was great, because I eat everything these days.

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  • I don’t make a big deal about our fussy eater. I figure if she’s hungry she’ll eat.

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  • Thanks for sharing, passing this on to my friend who has a fussy bub!

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  • Sounds like my house. Nice artical thanks

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  • It’s good to always be offering the same food different ways

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  • It sounds hard having fussy eaters. I’m so thankful that my kids eat most foods.

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