My Child is a Fussy Eater – How Can I Boost Their Immunity? by Dr. Sagar Bhattad

7 min read

Written by Dr. Sagar Bhattad

Dr. Sagar Bhattad

Dr Sagar Bhattad is a renowned Pediatric Immunologist and Rheumatologist in Bengaluru. He is the first DM in India in Pediatric Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology specialty.

He received hi More

My Child Is A Fussy Eater

One of the most widely discussed topics among mothers or even parents is their child’s eating habits. “Does your child eat well?”, “does your child eat vegetables?”, “my child refuses to eat fruits”, “my child is a fussy eater” and the list just goes on. In many gatherings, parents discuss, more about their child’s food habits than about their behavior or other activities. Many parents ask their pediatrician about food for kids – much more than they ask about health or diseases.

Food is a vital component of the immune system. For a child whose immunity is still developing, the food they eat is essential for a strong immune system. However, we all know how difficult it can be to make a child eat all their greens and other healthy items. So, what can you do? Read on to find out.

In This Article

What is a Fussy Eater?

Many parents claim their child is a fussy eater. Let’s first understand what a fussy eater is. Is the child really a fussy eater or just like some types of foods more than others?

If your child likes certain types of foods and rejects others, they are a picky eater. For example- your child can like rice varieties and refuse to eat the same gravy with anything apart from rice. They are “picky” about or “prefer” rice over the roti.

On the other hand, if your child finds a reason to say no to most foods and has trouble eating even their favorite dish simply because it is in a different shape (ex – pasta), they are a fussy eater.

So, to sum it up – a fussy eater is one who fusses over eating almost anything. They won’t show any interest in eating anything healthy but might like all junk and unhealthy foods like chocolates, biscuits and ice creams. Giving in to such demands once in a while is ok, but to feed them just that is not a feasible option.

Is Fussy Eating a Normal Part of Childhood Development?

Is Fussy Eating a Normal Part of Childhood Development

So, do all children go through this phase of fussy eating? Do they all cross this phase at some stage? Or should a parent be worried about such a development?

Most children go through this phase. They are testing their limits and getting more selective about what they eat and how they eat it. Some children are very cooperative with any food you give them. Very rarely do they say no or throw a fuss. It can also be the influence of their culture or how such a fuss is handled.

Few children remain fussy eaters. If handled correctly at the right time, it can be just a phase and your child will be out of it in a short period. If you let them be fussy and give in to all demands, the “fussy phase” can become your child’s way of eating.

Does Fussy Eating Cause Problems Later in a Child’s Life?

Fussy eating, even if just a phase, can sometimes have serious repercussions when the child grows up. What they eat at a young age forms an important base for their immune system. If their system is going to face a deficiency in any particular vitamin or mineral, right from a young age, it can lead to unnecessary complications as the child ages.

For example – Children need a lot of calcium during their growing years as their bones are growing and calcium is an essential part of bones. If they are going to be fussy eaters, leading to a calcium deficiency, it can affect the way their bones form. Bones can be weak, short or even curved. Similarly, each essential nutrient has a vital role to play in your child’s growth. A severe deficiency in any of these essential nutrients may have a lasting effect on your child.

[Read : 10 Most Important Nutrients Needed For Strong Immune System in Kids]

What Are the Key Essential Nutrients Required to Boost a Child’s Immunity?

Key Essential Nutrients to Boost a Child’s Immunity (1)

Let’s agree, no one can actually eat everything and enjoy it too. Some people can eat even the foods they hate because it is good for their health, or the doctor recommended it. Unfortunately, the majority of children are far away from such an attitude.

When we cannot make a child eat everything, we ought to focus on what is essential. It is more beneficial to focus all those culinary and negotiating efforts to make a child eat the essential nutrients than to just eat anything and everything.

Here are the essential nutrients and their needs explained, to help improve your child’s immune system.

1. Vitamins

Your child’s growth, development and overall health require a good source of vitamins. You can provide enough vitamins for your child through their food. Your child needs a sufficient number of vitamins for better energy levels, a healthier immune system, stronger bones and much more.

2. Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that promotes faster healing of wounds, improves the immune system, and is also necessary for various senses. In children, it is responsible for the development of reproductive organs, the brain, a healthy immune system and overall functioning of the body.

3. Folic Acid

Folic Acid is essential for brain and neurological development. Folate makes healthy new cells and also helps in synthesizing and repairing DNA material. Folate deficiency can lead to folic acid deficiency anemia.

4. Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids help in synthesizing proteins that are important for a child’s growth. A deficiency in this nutrient can affect the child’s growth in their early years, leading to stunted growth. The body cannot produce this and can be derived only from food intake.

[Read : 10 Ways To Encourage Your Child To Eat Fruits And Vegetables]

Top 5 Tips For Mothers to Help Their Child Eat Their Fruits and Vegetables

Top 5 Tips For Mothers to Help Their Child Eat Their Fruits & Vegetables

Again, let’s face the fact that it is not easy to make a child eat all fruits and vegetables. Some mothers struggle a lot and are open to any suggestion that can help them. If you are in a similar position, here are a few ideas to make your child eat their fruits and vegetables.

1. Eat With Them

Most often, parents serve the food and go about their work. Children refuse to eat and try to get away from their plates citing some reason or the other. When parents eat with them, there will be a conversation, bonding and reassurance for the child that what they are eating is not to punish them.

When they see the parents eat the same fruits and vegetables served to them, they tend to play along. It is a modelling behavior which works the best with children. Children like to imitate what their parents do. Eating this way can increase your child’s fruit and vegetable intake.

2. Allow Them to Pick

Parents generally choose foods depending on various factors and give them to the child and expect them to eat them. While this is a necessary habit to develop in a child, sometimes, giving into this power struggle can benefit both parents and children.

Let your child come with you to the market and choose what fruits and vegetables they want for the week. when they have made the choice, they will tend to stick with it and eat it rather than resist.

3. Try Different Textures

We all love variety in food. One of the major aspects of this variety is the texture and then the smell. If your child is refusing to eat something, they probably don’t like the way it feels in their hands or mouth. it could be a sensorial preference.

Try different textures. You can even mix different fruits or vegetables into a salad and serve it to your child. Many children will readily eat if the texture is convincing.

4. Make it Fun

Try Different Textures

Food is essential but eating need not be a struggle. It can be made fun too. Make different dishes as and when possible. If you can cook up a variety, try to make what you have more interesting. All you need is some creative thinking.

You can cut the fruits or vegetables into different shapes with easily available cutters. You can place cucumber and tomatoes to make a face on your child’s vegetable sandwich. Add some colors and designs and cook up a story to go with it. Young children will love to try new food items when it is presented to them in a very appealing manner.

5. Offer Choices

Let your child have the freedom to choose. When they feel they have the right to choose, they will be more open to trying more items. They feel they have control and will not feel pressurized into eating something.

Let them choose between dishes, between colors or when they want to eat which fruit or vegetable. If they refuse later, you can always tell them that is what they chose to do. It will convince them to eat. If not every time, at least most of the time.

Food need not be a punishment. When it comes to healthy food items like fruits and vegetables, it can be beneficial to make your child realize the importance and eat them, rather than force or trick them into eating them. Healthy eating must become a lifelong habit and not just some trick to fool or convince the parents.

[Read : 8 Ways to Inculcate Healthy Eating Habits in Kids]

FAQ’s

1. Are Multivitamins an Acceptable Alternative to Fruits and Vegetables?

Multivitamins cannot completely replace fruits and vegetables in the long run. A child cannot survive on multivitamins all their lives. However, in case of severe deficiencies, a doctor can prescribe multivitamins at least until the deficiency is met.

2. Is it Normal For a Child to be a Fussy Eater?

Yes, it is normal for a child to be a fussy eater. While they may not like the taste or the way the food is presented, fussiness also indicates their way of testing their parents’ limits and getting their way or eating only what they want to.

Read Also: Immunity Boosting Foods For Kids

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Dr. Sagar Bhattad, MBBS, MD Pediatrics
DM - Pediatric Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Aster CMI Hospital
7 years of experience

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