The Confident Eater

Why may a fussy eater eat a new food, then drop it?

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

Why  a fussy eater may eat new a food then drop it?

There are many frustrations in parenting a child who has difficulty eating like the rest of the family. However, some things push buttons more easily than others. One of these is when a child happily eats a new food – the parent parties – and then suddenly that food is refused.

I frequently get asked why this occurs and I feel it is a great question to answer here, as it may give you a better understanding of what is happening for your child.

Why a fussy eater may eat a new food then drop it

Firstly, for clarity, I have divided children into toddler/early preschool age and ‘older’. However, some of the reasons apply to both age groups.

For older children:

1. Confidence. If a child has added a new food it is because, for whatever reason, they have found a level of confidence they are able to eat it. Maybe it is because you have been serving them chicken for a long time and they have finally built up the courage to try it.

Perhaps they have been sitting with a friend for lunch who always has a similar food and they have been building up the confidence to taste it for themselves.

Often in the early stages though, that confidence is fragile. The ability to eat the new food is not fixed and it can be easier to not eat it than risk eating it, leading to regression.

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, girl eating chicken, #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

2. Social awareness. Sometimes you as the parent, or others, inadvertently crush that newfound confidence. Telling all the relatives that ‘Ben now eats chicken’ can put a child in the spotlight and without realising it, make it difficult for them.

3. Progress is situational. It is normal for a child to be able to eat something new but only in a certain context. For example, on holidays they choose hash browns from the breakfast buffet, love them, and eat them every day. Returning from holidays you find that no brands of hash browns are the same and so your child refuses to eat them. This does not mean that hash browns are off the menu permanently, but you may have to do a bit of work to get them back on!

4. General feelings. Eating is not separate from the rest of life. If a child is feeling anxious or unsettled or upset, the first victim could be their eating. Being able to dictate what goes into the mouth can subconsciously offset a lack of control in other areas. This can lead to foods being dropped from the menu in the short-term.

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, anxious boy, #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

5. Appetite changes. When a child is in a growth phase, they are often hungrier. This can mean that foods that are on the edge of the comfort zone become accepted. When appetite drops, guess what?!

6. Control and habits. Often this is not conscious but has become an automatic pattern developed over years. If the habit is not adding new foods, then it can mean it is easier to not do it than do it. It can also be a push-back against parents if a child does feel pressured in any way.

For toddlers:

Much of this can be part of the general rollercoaster of the age and stage. Even eating competent toddlers can love a food one day and hate it the next!

The same challenges apply for littlies as for older children, but there are also some age specific things to take into account:

1. Independence. Learning to be independent is an important part of development, it can also be a nightmare for parents. Toddlers realise they are able to say ‘no’ and exercising that right repeatedly can be very tiring. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the food and everything to do with testing boundaries and seeing what happens when they do certain things.

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, boy eating grapes #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

Getting an emotional reaction from a parent regarding food refusal can make the ‘game’ that much more fun. For this reason, being as blasé as you can feasibly manage is a great policy – but very hard to do in practice!

2. More discerning. Toddlers start to understand that certain foods are sweeter, crunchier or more desirable than others so begin to lobby for the foods they prefer. Sensible, but oh so frustrating for parents. Naturally, ice cream is going to be a win for most children over broccoli and even at this age they are expert manipulators.

It is important however, that we do not give in to the 2-foot terrorists and maintain control!

3. More aware. At this age, toddlers are developing preferences, they are also becoming more cognisant of a range of other sensory and situational cues. Where often a baby will slurp happily on mushed veggies, a toddler starts to take more notice of the texture and the way that foods look, feel and smell.

Often toddlers start to refuse things because there is a discomfort for them regarding some aspect of the food. How you handle this as a parent can make all the difference.

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, child eating, #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

Taking steps forwards and steps backwards is really common when building the confidence of your picky eater. Progression is rarely linear – particularly when they are littlies. But, knowing this is powerful as it enables you to not despair and give up, especially when this could be just a little blip.

It is also important to realise that confidence, particularly around new foods is fragile. A child may feel comfortable tackling the new pasta at Grandma’s house when surrounded by love and the drive to please. Then, when back at home where a child is used to refusing, it is easier to ‘be yourself’ say that quick no.

Why may a fussy eater add a food then drop it? Judith Yeabsley|Fussy Eating NZ, boy eating pasta, #WhyAFussyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, # WhyAPickyEaterMayAddAFoodThenDropIt, #TryNewFoods, #TheConfidentEater, #FussyEatingNZ, #HelpForFussyEating, #HelpForFussyEaters, #FussyEater, #FussyEating, #PickyEater, #PickyEating, #SupportForFussyEaters, #SupportForPickyEaters, #CreatingConfidentEaters, #TryNewFood #PickyEatingNZ #HelpForPickyEaters, #HelpForPickyEating, #Wellington, #NZ, #JudithYeabsley

Supporting a child to eat new foods in all situations is a process and one that frustratingly, may take time. However, rather than be annoyed (which is unhelpful) appreciating that eating a food means that food can be eaten is great. Then the challenge is to create a supportive environment where that is able to occur again.

However, if your child seems to be regressing, and is dropping foods and it seems like it is a more permanent change then it’s important to evaluate why. Are they feeling more anxious or has the atmosphere at the table become less relaxed, for example?

Dropping foods previously eaten comfortably is a concern, particularly if no new foods are being added to compensate.

I am happy to talk to any parent who feels as though things are going backwards and they are not sure why, or how to prevent this from happening.

Judith, MA Cantab (Cambridge University), Post Grad Dip Psychology (distinction), Massey University, is an AOTA accredited picky eating advisor and internationally certified nutritional therapist. She works with 100+ families every year resolving fussy eating and returning pleasure and joy to the meal table.

She is also mum to two boys and the author of Creating Confident Eaters and Winner Winner I Eat Dinner. Her dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.

Learn more about Judith here:

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