2.5 year old will only eat chicken nuggets!

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2.5 year old will only eat chicken nuggets!

Postby twocentpiece » Sun 09 Jun, 2013 2:09 pm

My 2.5 year old is the fussiest eater I have ever seen. His diet is very basic and plain and despite our best efforts he will not change or deviate. Foods he used to love, no longer get a look in. If anything new is put in front of him he won't even taste it before proclaiming that it is yucky and he does not like it. He used to love peanut butter, fish fingers, pasta but now turns his nose up at everything . . . except chicken nuggets.

All he will eat is chicken nuggets and every night when he sits down to eat, once he sees that he does not have chicken nuggets he asks for them. When he realises he is not getting them he will refuse to eat his dinner and because we don't want to send him to bed with an empty stomach he will get some multigrain bread and some yogurt!

I have read in other posts on here that a big deal should not be made about whether the child eats or not and that the best way to get them used to new foods is to continually expose them to them by serving it up all the time.

But what do I do if the child refuses to eat? At 2.5 years old he is too young to be sent to bed hungry so should I keep giving him bread/sandwich and yogurt? The problem with this is it has gotten to the point now where as soon as he sits down he asks from some bread.

Any advice would be fantastic as meal times have turned in to a very tense and nervous time for everyone concerned.
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Re: 2.5 year old will only eat chicken nuggets!

Postby NgalaOnline » Mon 10 Jun, 2013 10:57 am

Hi TwocentPiece

Fussy eating and remaining limited to a small range of food is extremely common behaviour for toddlers. It is usually a behaviour that is difficult to change whilst the child is in the midst of this phase, and is also a phase that causes a lot of angst and anxiety for parents.

You are correct that the research shows that the best approach to take with fussy eating is to keep re-offering the same foods over and over again but with a very neutral attitude as to whether they are eaten or not. Research shows that children experience "food neophobia" or a genuine fear of new or different foods. The research shows that the average number of times a child needs to see a food before they will interact with it (touching it, smelling it, tasting it) is 20 times. Research also shows that strong encouragement or praise, or negative attention or punishment for eating or not eating a food will heighten a child's anxiety about eating the new food and make them more resistant to eating it. It is best to just continually serve up healthy foods, putting them next to a food that the child does like if possible. If the food is not eaten within a reasonable time frame, simply take the food again with no comment and try again another day. Any touching or exploring the food should be allowed as it is a positive step towards the child becoming familiar and comfortable with this food. Often it is worth experimenting with textures, as many fussy toddlers will happily eat crunchy foods but not cooked foods for example, or may happily eat grated carrot even if they refuse cooked or sliced carrot. It is important not to let the toddler fill up on too much fluid, and to make sure that their cow's milk intake does not exceed 600mls in 24 hours as excess milk intake can lead to iron deficiency as well as reduced appetite. Role modeling is very helpful, so eating meals together with your child is important when it can be done. Peer role modeling is also helpful and many parents find that their child will eat things if they see another little friend eating it. The timing of feeding can also be influential, and many parents find their child may have an appetite in the afternoon or morning (and may therefore eat vegetables and fruit in the morning or as their parent prepares the evening meal) but may be too tired to be hungry in the evening.

If a child is only eating small amounts it is important to make sure that what they are offered is healthy and nutritious, and not to offer "tastier" junk foods as an alternative if the child refuses healthy foods. Whilst homemade chicken nuggets without salt may be a nutritious meal for a toddler, store bought chicken nuggets are usually nutritionally problematic for a few reasons. They usually contain a very high level of salt and often too much fat for children. They also often contain a lot of preservatives and additives, and often have poor quality meat that does not offer much nutritionally. Being offered very salty or very sweet foods at a young age can make children develop a preference for these tastes, and make them more likely to reject "blander" healthy foods. As store bought chicken nuggets are not likely to be providing adequate nutrition for your toddler and as he appears to be fixated on them, it would be best to consider completely eliminating these from your household and from your child's diet. Within a few weeks he is likely to have forgotten all about them, and the absence of them from his diet will make him need to eat other foods to meet his energy requirements (as healthy toddlers will not starve themselves, despite the fact it often seems that they live on air). He is likely to have a phase of protesting over the absence of nuggets for a few days, but will move on if you stick to your decision. It is best to look at a toddler's intake over a longer period such as a week, as it is common for toddlers to eat more some days than others.

Yoghurt and multigrain bread are both nutritious foods which are appropriate to include in a child's diet and for him to have as part of his dinner. Rather than offering them as an alternative that is provided after he has refused other foods, it may be best to provide them on his plate as part of his dinner when you serve his food up. This prevents him from forming the idea "I refuse my dinner, I get something better" and also prevents him from feeing he needs to rush through or refuse the food on his plate in order to get to the "good stuff" quickly. If you serve them alongside some small servings of other food that you would like him to try, their presence on the plate may actually help him to feel less anxious and more accepting of the other foods in proximity to the food he enjoys. It is best to keep the servings of the bread and the yoghurt reasonable, such as just one piece of bread so that he is likely to still have some room for other foods. You may find that you could get away with adding some fruit puree into his yoghurt to get some extra nutrients into him.

If you go to this website you will see a number of links under the "F" section including links on feeding toddlers and a link on fussy eating that may be helpful. http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthT ... px?p=121#f

Fussy eating is a very common part of toddlerhood for many children. It is best to try to limit your own anxiety over this phase as much as possible, continue to offer healthy foods to your child even if they are likely to be refused (he will surprise you on occasion) and know that most children do come out the other side of this fussy eating phase as they reach age three or four. I hope that this information is helpful.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
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or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

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