Many Faces of Picky Eaters: The Junk Food Lover

In a survey conducted by Abbott Nutrition, nearly 1 in 2 Singaporean parents say that their child is a picky eater. But which type of picky eater is your child? In Part 2 of our many faces of picky eaters series, we look at ‘The Junk Food Lover’ and find out how you can help your child overcome this picky eating habit.

Getting to know the junk food lover

Is your child a junk food lover?

Is your child a junk food lover?

It is no secret that most children love ‘junk’ food. Sweets, chocolates, fried food and burgers are but a few of their favourites on the menu. While it is fine to indulge their sweet and savoury cravings once in a while, it could be a problem if that is all that they eat, refusing healthier food choices such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

‘Junk’ food tend to be high in calories and low on vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fibre compared to healthier food choices. This type of picky eating may lead to an overload of energy that may cause obesity. They may also be missing out on important nutrients for their growth and development.

But with lots of patience and simple feeding strategies, you can help your child adopt a healthy and balanced diet over time. Soon enough, you could be watching him happily chomp down on nutrient-rich food like broccoli and carrots.

Telltale signs that your child may be a ‘junk food’ lover

– Strong preference for junk food

– Refusal to try new types of food

– Avoids fruits and vegetables

– Has a habit of snacking

Consequences of picky eating

– Inadequate nutrition

– Compromised growth

– Susceptibility to illness

– Lower cognitive development

– Strained parent-child relationship

Mum shares

Shashi Rai with 5-year-old Rudran

Shashi Rai with 5-year-old Rudran

Shashi Rai, mum of 5-year-old Rudran Vickram shares: “My son is extremely picky when it comes to his food. He loves macaroni and cheese, burgers and pizzas. He will fuss over a healthy home-cooked meal which will hardly be touched. I have tried to compromise by combining his favourites with healthy ingredients – e.g. cheesy broccoli rice – but he will end up meticulously picking the broccoli pieces. My husband and I have even tried bribing him with desserts if he eats his greens, but to no avail. He complains that fruits are sour, and that vegetables are bitter. I feel helpless because on one hand, I do not want him to go hungry, but I also do not want to indulge his picky eating any longer.”

Doctor’s advice

Dr Chan Poh Chong, Paediatrician at National University Hospital

Dr Chan Poh Chong, Paediatrician at National University Hospital

According to Dr Chan Poh Chong, Paediatrician at National University Hospital, it is not uncommon for a 5-year-old to develop preferences for food, especially junk food. However, it is important to acknowledge that Rudran has a problem with his dietary habits. He seems to have an aversion to greens, sour and bitter tastes. This is typical of a child who has a highly selective intake or sensory food aversion.

In order to identify the extent of his problem, we need to first assess his weight and nutritional status to see if his eating habits have caused any excessive weight gain or nutritional deficiencies.

Helping your ‘junk food lover’ to eat healthy

– Change his food choices gradually

– Tempt with small amounts of sour/bitter fruits and vegetables

– Prepare healthier food at home (e.g. Use cooking techniques such as baking instead of deep frying)

– Have meals together and act as role models

– A complete and balanced nutritional supplement may be necessary while you help him take a liking to healthier food choices

For more tips on teaching your child healthy eating habits, go to www.pickyeating.com.sg.

The many faces of picky eaters series:

Part 1: The slow eater

Part 3: The choosy eater

Part 4: The small eater