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Is there such a thing as a fussy eater?

The word ‘fussy’ in the Oxford dictionary is defined as; (adj) “fastidious about one’s needs or requirements; hard to please.”

Around the world, millions of people are branded as ‘fussy eaters’ and we seldom delve deeper into the root of the problem. In particular, when it comes to children, we generally accept that some kids love their food and others are fussy.

We learn different methods of coaxing our children into eating, some methods take a lot of preparation time that parents do not necessarily have, but there is not a lot about how to understand the challenge that your child might be facing with certain foods.

Dr Gill Hart, a Biochemist York Test Laboratories, a food intolerance testing firm, claims parents should not automatically assume their kids are picky eaters, but rather find out why they are fighting to avoid those foods.

The same is true of adults. This challenge of identifying food that does not work for you and replacing it with suitable alternatives is not unique to children.

The difference however is that children, unlike adults, often cannot articulate how they feel. Children three years and up may say their tummy does not feel good or that they feel sick, but as parents, we may still dismiss it as they are trying to avoid dinner, or lunch. But the question is, why would they avoid dinner or lunch when they should naturally be hungry?

Our belief at TrueEarth is that food is meant to be enjoyed and that everyone wants to enjoy their food. When people appear “fussy” when it comes to eating, it is simply a case of a mismatch between the food they are presented with often, and what their system would enjoy.

Food intolerances are different from allergies and they can take up to 72 hours to manifest, making the job of pinpointing the cause all that more difficult. Food intolerances can manifest as a rash, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, bloating and wind.

Food intolerances can make children feel irritable and cause outbursts when presented with food that they know will not make them feel good after eating it. The result may be that the child develops a bad relationship with food and may learn to ignore natural hunger pangs. Parents need to find out why certain foods get a negative reaction. There are many online resources and specialists who can assist with this process.

Children living with intolerances subconsciously learn to have a bad relationship with food if the food they are intolerant to keeps being presented to them. If the ‘habit’ or subconscious behaviour is not resolved soon enough, they will struggle in the future and continue to have an abnormal relationship with food, which could have adverse consequences to their health.

The sooner the food intolerance is diagnosed, the better, enabling us all to enjoy food the way we should.  

So, next time there is a battle at the dinner table, remember that their reaction may not be a ‘fussy’ one but rather an attempt to tell you that they need a change in their diet. Equally, the next time you are hosting your cousin you have known since you were a teenager, the one who never seems to enjoy anything you prepare, don’t just assume they are being picky – they could just be struggling to find something that agrees with them at your dinner table.