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Recently she does not seem to be interested in any food I offer her

Hi Leanne. My daughter is now 16months old and has always been quite a small (volume-wise) eater but she was always quite good with different types of food. Recently however, she does not seem to be interested in anything I offer her for lunch or dinner which is getting very frustrating. She is good with breakfast and has crackers and/or fruit (usually) for morning and afternoon tea but when lunch and dinner roll around it is a struggle to get her to feed herself and/or let me feed her. She doesn`t get overly upset, she just doesn`t want it. My main concern is that she has "gone off" meat and vegies and is becoming very picky and as a result is not getting the goodness from food that she used to get. I make all her meals and feel like I am wasting so much time and food. Do you have any suggestions? I look forward to your advice!
Thanks alot. Leanne R.

Answer: Hi Leanne, Yes, typically fussy eating hits around 14-18 months and as you say the issue can be compounded if they are already not eating huge amounts. Fussy eating can really have you pulling your hair out! I have a six year old who is showing signs of coming out of it, but only glimpses. I still sneak stuff into all sorts of meals, makes it easier to go with it when I know he has been getting healthy food albeit disguised. Most healthcare professionals will say that as long as your little one is gaining weight at their usual rate and is happy and healthy, she won`t starve herself. But as a parent this can be of little comfort. Below is my checklist, some ideas may not be relevant and really I believe that involvement is the key to breaking down those natural barriers:
  1. Persisting with offering the healthy stuff even if it is rejected
  2. Sneaking in the good stuff where you can which makes avoiding the battles (no-one wins those ones) easier
  3. Getting them involved
  4. Offering a healthy supper down the line if dinner is rejected and your toddler complains of being hungry
  5. Trying to use the foods they do eat as a basis for making other food/meals that are more likely to be enjoyed. For example cream cheese on a bagel, pasta with bacon and a cream cheese base, bread and butter pudding made with calcium enriched milk such as soy or rice, try sweet potato chips etc.
  6. Swap lunch and dinner if that helps and make meal portions achievable (small but healthy).
  7. Check milk or other fluids aren’t interfering with their appetite.
  8. Remember that food rejection is a normal behaviour for most toddlers and preschoolers.
  9. Repeat the mantra "this like all things in infancy and childhood, will pass" and it will!
I have a tip sheet on fussy eating on Huggies that might have some pointers, but again I really think it would be best to get some help with this, the link is: Picky Eating Smoothies are a great way of adding food groups into a diet. You can add baby rice cereal for iron, ground nuts and seeds for fats and protein etc and so on. They are also a real treat for children as ice-blocks. Also I think the Jessica Seinfeld book using purees is a good idea, but I reduce the sugar, use olive oil and don’t add salt, I also have a recipe book based on my fussy foodie. If you feel you really would like some help and also to check that she is getting all her needs, there are a few options you might like to consider. If you wanted to start out with the obvious you might like to see a naturopath, nutritionist or dietitian who specialises in children. They will be able to firstly review what your little one does eat and tell if there may be some nutritional issues to be addressed and if so, how they are best dealt with. Then advise you on fussy eating and what tips and tricks might help. Another option is a feeding expert, the gals at No Fuss Feeding (website of the same name) are excellent with feeding issues, and it`s their specialty. Though this tends to be more for children with feeding or swallowing issues, still a good paediatric speech pathologist can be very helpful. Or in a similar vein an early childhood consultant who can help with behavioural tips. Aussie: www.nofussfeeding.com.au NZ: www.paediatricfeedingdisordersclinic.co.nz/index.htm So I hope that gives you some ideas, keep offering the good stuff. Think also laterally, don`t forget things like baby rice cereal added into meals it is a good source of iron, things like pulses are a good alternative to vegies and also foods like goji berries are packed full of nutrition. All the best, Leanne
Answered: 01 Jul 2009