Fussy eaters should be encouraged to play with their food

Encourage playing with food
Encourage playing with food Photo: Shutterstock

"Stop playing with your food," could soon be banished from the dinner table thanks to new guidelines designed to give fussy eaters the "best chance" of reaching a healthy weight.

The guidelines were released by NICE, the UK experts who write guidelines for doctors.

NICE is urging parents to worry less about table manners and to make meal times more relaxed and fun. It recommends families eat together, and avoid "punitive" approaches to bad dinner table behaviour that can turn a simple dinner into a drawn-out torture for the whole family.

This kind of drama can set a child up for slow weight gain, also known as "faltering growth".

"Having a child with faltering growth can be distressing for parents and carers," says Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE. "However, simple things such as encouraging relaxed and enjoyable feeding and mealtimes, eating together as a family or even allowing young children to be 'messy' with their food can help encourage them to eat."

Faltering growth can occur when a child doesn't eat enough to sustain their energy requirements for growth and development.

"Picky eating is very common," said Dr Lee Hudson, consultant paediatrician with expertise in feeding and eating disorders, told HuffPost UK.

"Most children and young people will change what they are willing or interested in eating through their lives, often in conjunction with periods of growth spurts.

"The important thing for parents is not to panic as most children who are picky will either be going through a phase, and will still have enough food to grow properly."