Many fussy eaters would like to eat better but there’s something blocking them. Other than feeling under the weather, below are some of the reasons why children maybe very selective in their eating or regularly eat very little.
Iron Deficiency Iron is essential to your child’s growth and the best foods include animal sources, especially red meat, seafood and eggs as well as plant sources, especially dark green leafy veg. As some children are eating very little of these foods, they may be at risk of low iron levels. Indeed, iron deficiency is relatively common among children, particularly so among those with limited diets. Signs of iron deficiency include recurrent infections and poor appetite.
Zinc Deficiency Zinc is an essential nutrient for growing children and is found in a variety of foods such as red meat, seafood, dried beans, as well as whole-grain breads and cereals. As some children are eating very little of these foods, they may be at risk of low zinc levels. Just like iron, low zinc levels can be quite common in children, resulting in a loss of appetite, as well as a reduced sense of taste and smell. Think of how disinterested we are in appetising foods when we have a stuffed nose.
Constipation Constipation is, unfortunately, a common problem with many children, especially fussy eaters. Eating lots of foods with low fibre including white bread products and little fruit and /or vegetable may contribute to constipation. Constipation can also result in poor appetite, as there is limited space for more food in the body. Some signs of constipation are:
- Having less frequent bowel motions (for some this is fewer than 3 bowel movements a week)
- Having bowel movements that are difficult or painful to push or sometimes passing hard stools.
Tiredness Children are especially likely to be more irritable or emotional if they have not had enough good quality sleep. Insufficient sleep may therefore result in disinterest in eating and lack of focus at meals. One of the reasons evening meals are often more challenging than earlier in the day is children’s increased tiredness.
Filling up elsewhere Many of us forget just how small our child’s tummy is and how easily it can get filled. Your child’s tummy is about the size of their fist.Consuming liquids around meal times, in particular juice and especially lots of milk can easily fill up bellies. Then there isn’t much room left for food. Likewise, children can easily and quickly fill up on sweets and treats, or even lots of fruit, especially around meal times. Then there isn’t much room left for foods served at mealtimes.
Lots of snacking This is often one of the most common reasons why children have poor appetites or are more likely to be fussy eaters. This involves eating small amounts very regularly; often these are mostly snack or ‘picnic’ type foods (for example, crackers) rather than ‘meal type foods’ like some dinner.