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Fussy Eaters: How to Complete Their Nutritional Needs

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Fussy Eaters: How to Complete Their Nutritional Needs

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Are you tired of tantrums and worried about the incomplete nutrition of your child? If yes, then glance through the article below to find its solution.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Preetha. J

Published At November 2, 2018
Reviewed AtNovember 15, 2022

What Is Fussy Eating in Children?

Faddy eating of children is a source of stress for nearly all parents. It is commonly seen among toddlers. Fussy eating is one of the feeding difficulties in which there is either a denial to consume familiar foods or try new food options. Picky eaters also have strong preferences for food. Almost half of them turn down tasting a new food half of the time. It is typical because toddlers need less food to grow than newborns, as their growth is comparatively slower than babies. Hence, children may not be able to eat properly at mealtimes or may directly refuse to eat something. But, do not worry about it. Consider their eating patterns over a long period, like a week. If a child has optimal body weight and performs activities at an average pace, he is said to be physically growing normally.

Fussy eating habits result in a poor diet and incomplete nutrition in children. A child's diet should consist of all the macronutrients in their appropriate amounts. Having correct eating patterns and habits is vital for the child's overall growth and development and prevents health issues in the future. However, each child is different and has a distinct taste and liking or disliking for a particular food. So, a standard diet plan cannot be applied to all. Instead, a customized one is required. Making the child aware of the various foods available around him helps to identify and recognize his soft spots, and these should be paid heed to while preparing his meals. A toddler's dietary habits can be modified as taking small feeds daily with an interval of three hours, along with two snacks in between the meals.

How to Deal With Fussy Eaters?

Several methods can be used to overcome fussy eating in children. They are as follows:

  • Incorporate Variety in the Kid’s Diet: Children do not like to eat the same foods daily. For example, if you give your child a gourd every day, he might get bored of it and start developing hatred toward that food. Introducing a variety in your kid's diet is essential so that your child does not feel mealtimes are boring. You can include wraps instead of the regular chapati with vegetables. It looks more attractive to a kid than eating a regular chapati.

  • Include Iron and Calcium-Rich Foods in the Diet: Iron helps to increase a child's appetite. Lack of iron leads to lethargy and restlessness. It also helps to boost their memory power and help them perform well in academics. Iron can be obtained from sources like green leafy vegetables and nonvegetarian foods. Garden cress seeds are rich in iron too. They can be powdered and added to vegetables and given to children. Dates that are a perfect source of iron can be added to smoothies to replace refined sugars. Calcium is necessary to build and strengthen bones. It is found in milk and milk products like curd, cottage cheese, greens, fish, etc.

  • Add Enough Protein to the Child’s Diet: Protein is mainly required for growth. Its deficiency may lead to malnutrition in the child, retardation of growth, slow mental development, and hair loss. Good protein sources are nuts, eggs, whole milk, milk products, pulses, chicken, fish, and nuts.

  • Ensure Foods Rich in Antioxidants in Your Kid's Diet: Antioxidants are present in fruits and vegetables, which protect your kid from diseases. Insufficient antioxidants in the diet may make your child easily prone to infections. For fussy kids, milkshakes can be introduced into the diet with a garnish like cherry, which might fascinate the child. Vegetables can be presented in cutlets (patties) in different shapes like triangles, star-shaped, heart-shaped, etc., which many kids love. Sweet potato, which is dense in nutrients, can be included in your kid's diet as it seems to be the favorite among kids.

  • Give a Boost of Probiotics to the Diet: Probiotics help keep the gut flora healthy by destroying harmful microbes and enhancing the growth of the beneficial ones. Good gut muscle integrity is needed for normal digestion and to avoid various infections caused due to different bacteria and viruses. Greek yogurt can be consumed by fussy eaters who have a sweet tooth.

How to Make Kids Excited for Food?

  • Involve children in the cooking process as it generates excitement in them, and they are more likely to eat the food as they are involved in the preparation.

  • Provide the same food to the child as you or your family eats. But omit salt and other spices in your kid's feed.

  • Eating is a social event, so the entire family, or at least you, should eat with your child as frequently as possible.

  • Children like to emulate their parents or others around them. So, introduce them to new food items when you or other family members dine with them.

  • Serving small portions of food to your child and giving him appraisals on finishing up the food.

  • Children modify their tastes frequently, so it is very likely for them to reject a particular food at a time and accept it later. Therefore, when they turn down the food, please do not force them. Instead, try it shortly.

  • Know your child's eating pace. Do not leave the table until your child has finished eating or is too tired to eat.

  • Do not include several snacks in between your kid's meals. Two healthy snacks are enough for the day.

  • Avoid using food as a reward. Your child may consider sweets as good food and vegetables as bad. Instead, other reward options can be used as a trip to a park.

  • Prevent making the mealtimes boring and add on them with some chats and discussions.

  • If other children of your child's age are good eaters, invite them often to your home over meals to dine with your kid.

  • Modify or change the serving of the food, like your kid may dislike sliced potatoes but may enjoy having them mashed or grated.


Fussy eating is normal in children, and it can be tackled by adopting various techniques in the diet. However, it is imperative to recognize it and treat it early to avoid the consequences of incomplete nutrition and poor health for your child.

Frequently Asked Questions


How to Make Picky Eaters Get Enough Nutrients?

To increase the nutrition of the foods that the picky eaters eat, try the following steps:
- Offer them nutrient-dense food.
- Encourage interactive food play.
- Add smoothies, dips, and sauces rich in nutrients to the child's meal.
- Serve fruits and vegetables in new innovative ways. 
- Include the child in food planning and preparation.


How to Help a Child Who Is a Picky Eater?

The following will improve the picky eater’s food intake:
- Introduce only one new food at a time, and go slow.
- Serve meals on a set schedule. 
- Let the child decide how much new food they are willing to taste.
- The child may be more willing to try a portion of food if they have the option of swallowing or spitting out the food.
- Keep trying, be patient and offer the food in different ways.
- Try to be a role model and have meals together.
- Make mealtimes fun.
- Involve the child in the planning and preparation of the meals.
- Do not offer snacks before meals.


How to Ensure That Picky Eaters Get Enough Proteins?

Protein is essential for all as it is a building block for all body parts. Children require proteins in their diet to grow. However, they do not need large amounts of protein like adults. Most proteins get recycled in the body. However, food given to children should also include the recommended quantity of proteins. Milk is an excellent source of protein. Cow's milk has one gram of protein in every ounce.
Protein-rich food includes -
- Meat (even chicken nuggets are rich in proteins).
- Other milk, such as soy milk.
- Fish.
- Eggs.
- Beans and grains.
- Vegetables.


What Supplements Can Help Picky Eaters?

The best way to ensure the child is healthy is to get them to eat more whole foods full of vitamins and other nutrients. The following can be given in addition to a daily nutritional meal:
- Vitamin supplements ( chewable vitamins or gummy vitamins).
- Nutrition drinks.
- Vitamin-fortified foods such as 
- Calcium and vitamin D in yogurt and cereals.
- Vitamin-fortified soy milk.\
- Energy bars for kids.
- Fortified cereals and oatmeals.
- Fortified health juice and fruit juice.


How to Make a Picky Eater Gain Weight?

Most picky eaters will gain weight and grow normally, though they appear to eat less food. To help the child gain weight, it is essential to include high-calorie healthy food into the child's diet, such as eggs, beans, nuts, whole milk, cheese, sweet potato fries, rich fruits like mango, and nut butter. Adding calories to the food the child likes is another successful tactic to help the child gain weight. butter, whole milk, juice, and eggs can be added to the child's favorite foods. Flavor training and offering a wide variety of food can help fussy eaters.


What Are the Problems With Picky Eating?

Picky eating can affect the child's growth and cause them to be underweight with low immunity. They do not get their nutritional needs leading to deficiencies (of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium). As a result, they are prone to illnesses and complications as they grow. The child's energy, attention, cognitive functioning, and immunity are affected for the worse. In addition, children who prefer snacks and sweets develop dental problems.


What Are the Causes of Picky Eating in Children?

Picky eating is acquired at some point during the upbringing of the child. Some believe that there is a genetic factor to fussy eating. The causes of fussy eating include:
- Early feeding difficulties.
- Late introduction to textured food or lumpy foods at weaning.
- Pressure to eat.
- Early choosiness.


Do Picky Eaters Change Their Food Preferences?

Picky eating is a common complaint of parents with kids between the ages of two to four. For example, the child might turn their nose to anything green or eggs and refuse the new food offered. This is a developmental stage; most children outgrow their aversions with age. However, some children do turn out to be picky eating adults.


How Can I Make My Picky Eater Eat Vegetables?

Most parents with fussy eaters often wonder how to get their children to eat vegetables. Here are a few pointers to help:
- Serve the veggies first (when the child is hungry).
- Vegetables cut into fun shapes can be given as snacks.
- Serve vegetables as breakfast, such as mashed-up avocado and sliced tomatoes on toast.
- The picky eaters must be encouraged to try and eat new foods as an exciting adventure (let the kids play with their vegetables).


Are All Picky Eaters Skinny?

Most children who are fussy eaters are not underweight. They may appear thinner or skinny than their peers, but it is not of major concern if they are not underweight or unhealthy. Unless the child's doctor is not worried about the child's growth and development, parents should not be. The picky eaters will eventually outgrow their fussy eating habits with time.


Which Foods Are High in Calories to Gain Weight?

Healthy high-calorie food that should be offered to picky eaters to help them gain weight include:
- Proteins such as eggs, meat, pork, chicken, and fish.
- Whole milk and milk products such as yogurt, cheese, and butter.
- Fruits such as bananas, apples, and mangoes.
- Nuts and nut butter.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Vegetables sauteed in olive oil (instead of steaming).
- Dark chocolates.
- Whole wheat bread and pasta.


Can Health Drinks Replace a Meal for a Picky Eater?

Healthy, wholesome food rich in nutrients is essential for a child’s growth and development. Health drinks can be added to the child’s food schedule to provide additional nutrition to the picky eaters. However, health drinks should not replace a meal for a fussy eater. Some meal replacement drinks are available to help picky eaters gain weight and grow normally. These can be taken under the guidance of the pediatrician.
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina
Quadros Krystel Godfrey Lavina


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