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HealthInfo Canterbury

Fussy eaters

Ngā tamariki kaiutiuti

Fussy eating is a stage many toddlers go through. Up to a third of children around the age of 2 can be described as fussy eaters.

There can be several explanations for a toddler's sudden lack of interest in food. One of these is slower growth after their first birthday. They can become fussy after an illness. Or you may have noticed they are cooperating less in other areas, such as getting dressed or putting on shoes. Refusing food can be a way of showing their independence.

It can help to praise at least one thing your child does at every meal. This could be good chewing or biting, good sitting, good food exploring, and so on. Give your child time to explore and learn about the new food. They can look, touch, smell, lick, bite and chew.

Don't assume your child doesn't like a particular food after only one or two attempts. It often takes 10 to 15 times for a food to be offered before it is accepted.

The link below gives some strategies to keep meal times positive.

Most children will grow out of their fussy eating without any long-term problems, although it can be a worrying time for parents.

Speak to your family doctor if your child is avoiding whole food groups such as fruit and vegetables, or milk and milk products, or if their fussy eating causes weight loss or tiredness.

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Compiled by paediatric dietitians, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated October 2016.

Page reference: 117974

Review key: HIHEC-62690