I don't usually use this term, as I feel "Fussy eating" does children a real disservice. How can we aim to discourage well-meaning family and friends from offering advice such as "she will grow out of it" and " He will eat it eventually, he won't starve" while it sounds like a choice, I don't know.
I tend to use the term Restricted eating. It just makes more sense and gives this topic the level of seriousness that it deserves.
This is because it is not a choice, they are not being "fussy" and it can become a very debilitating issue. Part of the problem is that one of the drivers is anxiety. As having even just one restricted eater in your household can take over everyone's lives causing immense stress, our stress as parents and caregivers feeds our child's anxiety around mealtime even more and so we stay on a roundabout ride we never wanted to be on, with no idea how to hop off.
So what are the possible causes of restricted eating?
A very high percentage of children that I see started to lose foods around the 2.5year mark.
That is partly due to this being a normal, developmental stage where we start to develop specific tastes etc.
When it goes beyond this and your child loses whole food groups or you find they mainly eat a "beige diet"- relying on plain starchy foods and not being able to stomach most coloured foods (other than fruit) then we know we must act.
This can be triggered by a number of things, and like I always say- it's never just one thing.
So let's break it down.
Your child may have been born with an already slightly imbalanced gut, meaning that there may be a little too much of a potentially problematic bacteria and/or not enough of some of the beneficial bacteria.
A trigger during those early stages of eating such as a virus or contracting a parasite can then start to really imbalance everything within the gut.
Because they are reliant on starchy, sugary foods to survive and proliferate, bad bacteria will send messages to the brain that these are the foods we crave.
Equally, good bacteria need fibre rich, antioxidant rich, prebiotic foods like pretty much all the colourful veggies your child now does not eat to feed them. Couple that with the fact that veggies can be too bitter, or lack the sweetness of other foods, and those messages pretty quickly die out and get replaced by the ones for our beige foods.
Once we have a true imbalance in the gut, anxiety usually increases- remember 90% of Serotonin alone is found in the gut.
So anxiety around trying to eat unwanted foods can quickly skyrocket, and if we couple this with sensory issues, we really have a reason to avoid the dinner table.
This is just the start, and I explain the mechanisms of how and why this develops and what we can specifically do about it to all my families.
The good news is we can turn it around. It does take time, and each child's story is unique. But given the right tools we can reverse this for even the most restricted eater. So please dont worry, it can be done.
If you'd like to find out more, go to my Free 20 minute booking page and book your chat.