Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Sensory Issues and Fussy Eating Phases - An Update

A hamburger in a bun, inside a circle featuring the title text.
In 2014, I wrote a post about my five year old son's struggles with food, with some ideas on how to tackle a similar situation, using everything I had learnt, along with some input from other bloggers who had faced similar situations. Last year, I edited it and reposted Top Ten Tips for Sensory Issues and Fussy Eating Phases, with a few updates based on what I had subsequently learned about sensory issues. Since then, things have continued to improve, and I thought it would be good to post an update, mainly to reassure other parents that it can get better, vegetables won't always be the food of the devil and scurvy won't take hold by the time they reach secondary school.  

I have continued to build on L's range of acceptable foods, and he has become so much more relaxed around food. He is happy to try new things, with mixed levels of success. I think it's probably about 50/50 whether he will eat it again, and it can take a lot of patience when there doesn't seem to be any real reason why one food doesn't make the cut, but it means that new foods are added now and again, which helps towards creating a balanced diet. As he's now nearly 13, it's really important that he has all the building blocks he needs to support all the growing he's doing. I still use a lot of the techniques from the first post, especially around communication and being honest. I try to get him to talk about exactly why he doesn't like something, to give him an idea about his general tastes and issues around textures, and to help me to find foods similar to ones I know he likes. I will keep getting him to try a bit of something I'm eating, because tastes do change as children get older, and I like that he now has a relationship with food that he knows it won't kill him if he doesn't like it. 

A white plate with a slice of pizza, some breaded mushrooms and two slices of garlic bread.

We've had a couple of challenging times recently for someone who is unsure around food. We attended a very elegant wedding that included a sit-down meal with no menu choices. This was tricky, because L didn't know what there was going to be to eat until we arrived. Unfortunately for him, the children's menu was a roast chicken dinner. Roast dinners have always been somewhat of a nemesis for L, mainly because he doesn't like potatoes or gravy, or a lot of vegetables. The way he reacted on the day though, really showed how far he'd come. He didn't react at all, in the interests of good manners in polite company, he calmly ate the bits he could manage (even though he would have preferred not to), and discreetly passed some to his dad! I was so proud of him, not just for his impeccable manners, but for really trying when he knew it mattered. It also showed him that he could cope in any food situation, which is a great step forward for his nerves around food. 

A large round table, set with full service including white crockery and many wine glasses!

This year L has also been learning about nutrition at school, which has actually really helped. Why is it, that you can tell a child something fifty times, produce a reasoned argument, add slides, persuade, nag, repeat, but a teacher mentions the same thing casually once, and it's like a light bulb is suddenly switched on? I swear, next time I want my son to accept something I say, I am just going to email it to one of his teachers and suggest it as a lesson plan! Anyway, I digress. Learning about nutrition (despite the fact I had mentioned it several times before) meant that L was more aware of the positives and negatives to food. He has really taken on board the need to put nutritious food before junk food and, even though his range is still quite limited, he is keen to eat more fruits and vegetables. His after school snack is now pieces of fruit or raw carrot. I cut up apples for him, but I actually prefer slices too, so I think it's a small compromise to promote better snack options. As a side note, I think the reason he didn't take on board my pleas around eating for health was because I came at it from a negative standpoint. I was almost using nutrition facts as scare tactics. Not deliberately, but I think if I had to change anything about my initial approach it would be to be more positive. Instead of saying 'if you eat too many sweets, you'll have to have fillings', it would be better to say something like 'drinking milk will give you lots of calcium, which keeps your teeth strong'. L is a worrier, and when he first started learning about how different foods affect the body, he was actually really concerned for his own health. By talking about the positive impacts of certain foods, he can be reassured that he's giving himself the best chance to be healthy. 

I hope this post will offer reassurance to anyone else whose children don't have a great relationship with food, whatever the reason. It does get better, you can make changes and if you are at all concerned about your child's health due to their eating habits, don't hesitate to have a chat with your GP, who should be able to support you. 



  1. Very interesting read. I have a very fussy 6 year old!

  2. Good ideas! I had a fussy one, he’s 22 now and isn’t fussy anymore. It’s not easy when they are fussy, you sound like you have it covered 👍


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