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When is it more than just fussy eating?

Updated: Mar 10

Girl holding broccoli on a fork looking very disgusted.
Does this look familiar? Families with fussy eaters can experience greater stress and frustration.

Has mealtime become a battleground in your household? Having a picky eater in the house can cause all sorts of challenges. You may feel as though the battle lines are drawn in a standoff or that you need to become an entertainer and chef extraordinaire to please your child’s culinary tastes.

Picky eating can be caused by medical issues, oral motor difficulties, sensory issues, behaviour or a combination of these factors.

It’s normal for children to be reluctant to try new foods. Estimates of the prevalence of fussy eating in Australian kids ranged from around 13 per cent to 50 per cent at some point in childhood.

When should you call in reinforcements to help your child overcome their picky eating?

It’s time to get help when:

  • If you notice your child is coughing or choking while eating or drinking

  • Your child is not gaining weight or growing as expected.

  • She eats a limited range of foods or refuses specific food groups, food textures, flavours or colours.

  • He pushes his plate away or tries to remove himself from the table when non-preferred foods are presented.

  • Your child gags on new or non-preferred foods?

  • She has a gurgly voice after eating or has frequent upper respiratory tract infections.

  • He takes a long time to chew his food.

  • Your child is spilling food and drinks out of their mouth when eating and drinking

  • She is stuffing her mouth full

  • He is keeping leftover food in his mouth after finishing a meal

  • Your child is taking a long time, 30 minutes or more, to finish a meal

  • She is putting her fingers in her mouth while eating.

  • You notice your child is dribbling a lot, or they may have liquid coming out of their nose when they are eating and drinking

If you're concerned about your child's eating choices and behaviours, a speech pathologist can help. We work with parents and children to support positive mealtime experiences. Speech pathologists can assess your child's feeding skills, consider the various factors that are limiting their food choices, and provide you with strategies and exercises to support your child's engagement with food textures and flavours.

Our feeding specialists are here to help. Please contact our clinic to discuss your concerns.

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