Helping the Fussy Eater

by MJ Fisher

B. Soc. Sc.; GradDip Teaching; Dip. Care and Ed.

All children can have their moments when it comes to being picky eaters. One day they may love a certain food only to announce the next that they ‘hate’ it and always have. At the extreme end of the fussy eating scale are children who may eat only a handful of select foods. Encompassed in this behaviour is a tendency to become stressed and anxious around food, which can lead to family meals being one of the least enjoyable times of the day.

Traditionally meal times are a place for family members to come together, to chat, to share stories, to grow and strengthen relationships. Yet when children with atypical eating patterns sit at a table, families can end up avoiding and/or dreading mealtimes.  While there is no such thing as a miracle cure to rectify fussy eaters’ dining habits, there are certain things that can help ease mealtime woes and turn these moments back to enjoyable experiences.

Which brain

While the brain is a complex organ it can be beneficial to understand different parts on a surface level.  As such, the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotions and emotive responses, will be the focus of learning in this article.

The four parts of the limbic system, in their most basic form, work together to produce memories and create automated responses. For example, some of the tasks include the hippocampus regulating emotions and controlling memories; the hypothalamus regulating body temperature and releasing hormones into the body; the thalamus interpreting body sensations; and the amygdala controlling the flight, fight, freeze response.

Our basic need in this world is survival.  As such, when something, even if it is something as simple as spinach in a pasta sauce, is perceived as a threat, the brain can go into overload mode.  When the brain recognises something as being a threat the limbic system becomes almost like a super-villain, unstoppable and all powerful.  The result of the limbic system’s interference means...