What are food jags and why do they matter for fussy eaters?

What are food jags and why do they matter for fussy eaters?

What are food jags

If you have a fussy eater in your family, you might have noticed that they want to eat the same food on repeat.

If your fussy eater is older enough, you may have experienced them eating the same food over and over, until one day they never look at it again!

They have burnt out on this food.  For kids without feeding issues, they will go off the food for a few weeks, then they will eat it again, but perhaps not as frequently.

For kids with feeding issues, they will never eat that food again!

This is called a food jag.

If your fussy child starts off with 10 foods that they eat, and are allowed to food jag, that number can easily get whittled down to 2 or 3 foods, and then things get really troublesome.

The good news is, now that you are aware of food jags, you can make sure this doesn’t become an issue for your child.

How to avoid food jags

To avoid food jags, you just don’t let your child eat the same food more frequently than every 2 days. If you are breaking out in a cold sweat reading this because your child only eats vegemite sandwiches, yoghurt and apples, keep reading, I have a solution.

Kids should be eating 5 times per day, with 2-3 foods served each time.  To get through 2 complete days without repeating a food, they need at least 20-25 different foods.  Many fussy eaters will have less than 10 foods in their repertoire, so we need to get creative.

Each time the preferred food is served, its sensory properties need to be changed slightly.  The change needs to be enough that the child notices (or else there is no point), but not enough that they panic and won’t eat the food.  This will very gentle challenge their sensory system every time they eat.

Take for example a child that eats vegemite on white toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • On day one, for breakfast the vegemite on toast will be cut into halves (rectangles).
  • For lunch it will be cut into halves (triangles)
  • For dinner it will be cut into quarters (squares)
  • On day two for breakfast, the vegemite on toast will be cut into quarters (triangles)
  • For lunch it will be left as one whole slice.
  • For dinner it will be one whole slice with the crusts cut off.
  • On day three you can go back to halves (rectangles).

Other ways you can change foods is by

  • Changing colour
  • Changing texture
  • Changing taste

Another frequent food I see children jagging on is potato chips of a certain flavour.  The first step to reduce their fussiness is to start serving other flavours of the potato chip.

What is so bad about food jagging

The problem with letting your child jag is that their range of tolerated foods spirals inwards.

This increases the likelihood of:

  • Them developing a food sensitivity or intolerance to the food
  • Then developing nutrient deficiencies / malnutrition
  • Gut problems due to diversity of foods
  • Anxiety about food

Who is at risk of food jagging

Any child with feeding issues has the potential to jag.  There is a higher prevalence of food jagging among children on the autism spectrum.   Children with ASD will frequently have issues with their sensory system.  Eating the same food over and over again is very easy on their sensory systems and stops them having to process new sensory information.  Children will often jag on highly processed foods, as the factory ensures they are exactly the same every single time.

Try this with your fussy eater.  Reducing food jags is one small part of my Fuss No More Method.  A 12 week program to save your sanity and reduce mealtime tantrums.  If you think this might be right for your family, book a free discovery call to learn more.

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