Important nutrients for fussy eaters

Important nutrients for fussy eaters

In the first few years of life, a young child undergoes rapid growth and development, a phase marked by a dramatic change in feeding behaviours. From their burgeoning independence to exploration of new and different tastes, textures and smells, it can be an exhilarating time for a child. But it can also be a time when fussy eating can arise, leaving parents feeling frustrated and worried their child is falling short in key nutrients.

Addressing the challenge of fussy eating is akin to solving the ‘chicken and egg’ riddle when looking at it through a nutritional lens. Whilst fussy eating is considered a normal part of early childhood development, presenting in up to 50% of toddlers[1], it can also be driven by other underlying factors, namely nutritional shortfalls such as zinc and iron, and in effect, can perpetuate the cycle of poor eating patterns and poor nutritional status.

Key nutritional considerations

Alongside dietary interventions to improve food familiarity and likeability, it’s imperative to get on top of your child’s intake of the following nutrients to support their long-term health outcomes.


Zinc is a micromineral essential for rapidly growing bodies and is well-recognised for its involvement in immune system function. Good dietary sources of zinc include poultry, legumes and nuts, so some great meal ideas for children include chicken soup, chickpea and spinach pancakes and nutty porridge.

Low zinc can lead to reduced appetite and fussy eating. Zinc is also required for stomach acid production, and therefore poor zinc status may lead to digestive upsets further worsening food fussiness. A study demonstrated that zinc inadequacy occurs in 37.4% of children who are picky eaters[2], reinforcing the point that this mineral shouldn’t be overlooked!


Iron is also a micromineral involved in the production of red blood cells that are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body for optimal body function. Selective eating patterns is also associated with poor iron status, with a study showing low levels of iron in 20.3% of fussy eaters[3].

Iron can be sourced from a variety of foods such as red meat, green leafy vegetables, wholegrains and legumes. Iron sourced from plant foods (non-haem iron) is not as well-absorbed as animal-sourced iron (haem iron). Therefore, on top of fussy eating, children following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet are also at risk of low iron levels.

To bypass this nutritional barrier in picky eaters try:

  • Exposing your child to a variety of different iron-rich foods in easily consumable and appealing forms e.g. beef spaghetti, crackers with hummus and chicken and lentil spinach fingers.
  • Partnering iron-rich plant foods with vitamin C (e.g. berries, mango and capsicum) to amplify your child’s uptake of iron, more so if they follow a plant-based diet. Little tip - provide fruit on your child’s plate at every meal for a vitamin C boost.
  • Avoid offering excess dairy milk as it’s a poor source of iron, but also contains calcium which lowers the amount of iron that is absorbed in other foods.

If you are looking for an all-in-one nutritional supplement that combines zinc and iron to support the general health and wellbeing of growing kids, then look no further than Herbs of Gold Children’s Multi Care. It’s a comprehensive multivitamin offering 21 nutrients in a delicious strawberry-vanilla chewable tablet suitable for vegetarians and vegans.


[1] Carruth, B. R., Ziegler, P. J., Gordon, A., & Barr, S. I. (2004). Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers’ decisions about offering a new food. Journal of the American Dietetic Association104, 57-64.

[2] Chao, H. C., Lu, J. J., Yang, C. Y., Yeh, P. J., & Chu, S. M. (2021). Serum Trace Element Levels and Their Correlation with Picky Eating Behavior, Development, and Physical Activity in Early Childhood. Nutrients13(7), 2295.

[3] Chao, H. C., Lu, J. J., Yang, C. Y., Yeh, P. J., & Chu, S. M. (2021). Serum Trace Element Levels and Their Correlation with Picky Eating Behavior, Development, and Physical Activity in Early Childhood. Nutrients13(7), 2295.

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