Eating problems & life stages |

Eating Problems & Life Stages

Childhood days are often marked by phases of fussiness and tantrums.

You must have noticed that your child who was once very easy to feed suddenly has become fussy about food and rejects most of the 'healthy' food items that you give him. He may also take an unusual liking to a certain food and wants to have it in every meal.

Most parents sometimes face challenges from their children about eating. A child may:

  • Refuse to eat
  • Play with food
  • Eat less than usual
  • Dislike vegetables, fruit, meat or milk
  • Dislike chewing
  • Demand the same food at every meal
  • Prefer 'junk food' to healthy food
  • Make a mess on the table
  • Throw tantrums at mealtimes
  • These behaviours can surprise and trouble parents who want to ensure healthy eating.

9 to 12 months

  • For this age group, mealtime is an experiment involving new kinds of foods and new kinds of skills. Expect these little ones to squish food around in their mouths and practise their chewing.
  • Children in this stage crave consistency in everything from bedtime routines to afternoon snacks. Most of them will resist new foods. New foods should be served repeatedly until they seem familiar. The child may reject the new food or spit it out, but eventually it will be accepted.
  • These children use body language to show they are full or no longer interested in eating. They lean back, turn away, push food out of their mouths, seal their lips together and refuse to open them, play with the food or push the bottle or spoon away.
  • Children at this stage of life cannot sit still for very long.
  • They tend to prefer their liquids served in bottles or sipping cups, and they may resist eating solid foods.

1 to 3 years

  • Toddlers frequently develop food fads; they may request the same food for days or weeks.
  • They may temporarily refuse to eat.
  • Toddlers get distracted easily and may take a long time to finish their meals.
  • They are at higher risk for choking than older children.
  • They have a tendency to spill liquids and spread food on the table.
  • Children at this age may use food as a way to express their preferences.
  • These children may prefer liquids to solid food.
  • They may refuse to eat green vegetables, fruits or healthy snacks in favour of fast food.
  • They may neglect mealtime to have more playtime.
  • Toddlers may object to the shape, colour or texture of a food and may decide not to eat certain types of foods.
  • They may push, hide or throw food around during mealtime, especially if they dislike the food.
  • They may eat sweets and fatty foods but not enough healthy foods.
  • They may prefer snacking all day long in place of real meals.
  • A child in this stage may throw tantrums at mealtime.

3 to 5 years

  • Eating junk food, full of energy and fat but few nutrients, is a big problem for children in this age group.
  • They may develop a dislike for certain types of food and may refuse to eat them.
  • Preschool children may become picky eaters, (also known as 'fussy eaters', 'choosy' and 'problem eaters') and avoid certain foods, or eat only a limited number of foods.
  • Picky eaters seem to show little interest in food and may refuse to consume all the food on their plates.

5 to 7 years

  • Children in this age group tend to focus on personal challenges and may resist parent's insistence on healthy eating.
  • They may refuse to eat some foods, go on binges during which they eat only a certain food, or become classic 'picky eaters'.
  • During this stage, as in earlier development, children are learning independence and one way to be independent is to control their eating.

7 to 9 years

  • For children in this stage, the influence of friends and peers is important and they prefer to eat what their friends eat.
  • Children of this age may favour non-nutritious snacks.
  • Serious eating disorders, although rare, can develop from eating habits established at this age.