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A look at what fussy eating is and possible causes, along with practical suggestions to tempt kids into eating more and better.

If you are a parent with a fussy eater, you will know how frustrating keeping your child nourished can prove. Bear in mind that although a finicky child is hard to manage, you need to take some responsibility for how you might be involved in this too. In any event, it is the role of the caregiver to encourage healthy eating and to at least try and tempt your child into eating healthy foods, rather than giving into their every whim.

Outlined here are some ideas to help you encourage better habits and ensure adequate nutritional intake, even in the fussiest of children.

Finicky eating can start as early as weaning days and can continue into childhood. The most common phase for finicky eaters tends to be the toddler years (from ages 1 through 3). 

What Is Finicky Eating? 

Finicky eaters can be divided into three categories: those who are unwilling to try new foods, those who only eat a limited range of foods, and those with a poor appetite. Here's an overview of the types of finicky eating, along with possible solutions. 

Spitting. Children, and especially toddlers, might spit out food as they try it. This is not always due to them not liking the food but could be caused by the motion of the tongue as it adapts. This problem just takes some patience and time.

Food refusal. Food refusal is quite natural actually and repeated exposure to new foods increases the chances that the food will be accepted.

Food jags. As children develop and become more interested in the world around them, they might become disinterested in food. Food jags are characterized by a refusal of previously accepted foods or asking for one particular food at each meal. They can also arise as a way of asserting newly found independence. It is important to understand that this period is developmental and temporary.

Boredom. Children can easily become bored with food, especially if they are offered the same thing over and over. Your cooking and food preparation methods might also need to be overlooked. Sometimes, the atmosphere around meal times can also lead to boredom so try keeping it fresh and interesting.

Food presentation issues. The way food is presented is often the cause of finicky eating. Most toddlers do not like foods that are touching each other on the plate or might not like certain colors or textures.

Sensory processing issues. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is quite a common reason for fussy eating and is frequently in special needs children. It can occur in almost any child, though. In SPD the bombardment of sensory input is perceived or interpreted incorrectly resulting in sensitivity and defensiveness towards the input. Children may have a sensory overload from certain tastes, textures or even temperatures.

Some of the symptoms of oral defensiveness, which can effect eating, are an avoidance of certain food textures, tastes or flavors, and taking food off a fork or spoon while using the teeth and keeping lips retracted. Children may also gag when eating and can encounter difficulty in swallowing food without some liquid. 

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