Fussy eaters are hard to win over and it takes a combined effort shared between parents, carers, grandparents and teachers to help the most fussy eaters to eat healthy, varied diets during their preschool and early school years, nutritionists say.
It's all about patience and persistence with children taking 10 to 15 tries of an unfamiliar food before they might start to like it.
New research from nutrition and dietetics experts at Flinders University has found the diets of young Australians face a big challenge once introduced to solid food.
Fear (‘neophobia’) of new foods once solids are introduced into a baby’s diet creates issues in the lead-up to preschool and early school years when good nutrition is vital for healthy development.
Fussy eaters can lapse into bad eating habits that continue from 3–7 during important years for physical and learning development.
The new study on the dietary habits of children aged 1 to 5 years, shows Australian parents are breastfeeding to an average age of almost 12 months.
However, parents and carers often report difficulties when their babies are introduced to solids.
“Children who were more likely to reject unfamiliar foods, which is commonly perceived by parents as ‘fussy’ or ‘picky’ eating, have poorer diets,” says lead researcher Dr Lucinda Bell, an accredited practicing dietitian.
“This avoidance of new foods by children is a part of normal development. It is the normal reaction to the new experience of tasting foods for the first time.
“But some children have greater fear of new foods, which may be due to both nature and nurture.”
Flinders University Nutrition and Dietetics Associate Professor Rebecca Golley supports the idea of schools, parents, caregivers and children working together for optimal results.
Golley will cover best practice feeding strategies, including the following tips to help children taste new foods: