Why Picky Eaters are at Risk

Friday, September 25, 2015

How many of us have dealt with a picky eater in our lives? We all know someone who fits the description. It may even be a child of ours. Whenever I think of a picky eater I remember the movie When Harry Met Sally. Sally personifies the picky eater perfectly. Picky eating makes us think of someone as quirky, idiosyncratic or worse, a nuisance. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics unveils a far more serious side to picky eating, especially in our children.

Picky eating may be a sign a child is suffering from anxiety and depression. The study followed children from the ages of 2-6 for 3 years. They found that picky eating can be associated with separation anxiety and ADHD. To be clear, the study is not saying all children who are picky eaters are suffering from the same conditions. What it does show us is we should no longer view picky eating as a phase or quirky trait. It should not be trivialized or dismissed.

In fact, the study indicated that picky eating or “selective eating” might have long- term consequences on a child’s health. Some may be suffering with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (AFRID), a recently recognized eating disorder. It is estimated that while most kids out grow their picky eating, at least 12% do not.

What are the ways we can help our children have a healthy relationship with food and enjoy eating a range of foods? Here are some ideas nutritionists have shared:

Make eating an exploration. Discovering new foods can be full of fun. It can start by touching a new food, smelling it and even licking it. The goal is not necessarily to eat it the first time it is introduced.

Do not make eating a certain food a “have to”. A sure way to have a child hate a food is to insist they eat it and eat it all. Instead make it about discovering tastes.

A child’s tastes change over time so re-trying a food should be encouraged. What a child did not like at two may now be something they like at four.

Avoid indulging picky eating. Instead of always feeding the picky eater the only foods they like, serve up a variety of appealing foods…just don’t force them to eat them but rather explore them.

Have the picky eater help pick out new foods to explore and help prepare them for your meal. Studies show if children are involved in choosing the food they eat and helping to prepare it they are more likely to try it.

Help your child learn about the importance of balanced meals and nutrition. Share with them how the foods we eat are important for being healthy, having energy and to do the things we want to do from thinking to playing sports. Learn together how different foods are good for you to eat and why. Read children’s books that teach children about what a balanced meal is, why food is important and how to cook. A fun book to enjoy together is Sammie & Sax in the Land of Quinoa: The Search for a Balanced Meal.

Above all a child’s experience with food should be enjoyable and even fun. Incorporate activities around learning about food. Go pick your own berries or other foods. Go to a farmer’s market. Visit a farm. Take a cooking class together. Bake muffins and cookies and share them with neighbors and family. Experiment in the kitchen and make up your own recipes. The fun can be endless and a great way to spend time with your child.

If you want more ideas or are concerned your child may have other issues beyond picky eating make sure to talk to your pediatrician. What we now know is picky eating is no longer something to be ignored or dismissed. Knowing this we can take positive steps to address the needs of our picky eaters so they can be healthy and enjoy eating all variety of foods.

Great Resource: For fun games, recipes and a special dish set that teaches children about right-sized eating and balanced meals got to www.LivligaHome.com and check out all things Kidliga.

During September, all month long, as part of raising awareness for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month we are offering our Kidliga children’s dishware at a significant savings ($29.99 instead of $59.95/comes with an award winning book) and each time you buy a set of Kidliga we are donating a set to a child participating in a healthy lifestyle and nutrition program. This way each time you buy  you are doubling the number of kids you are helping live a healthy life.

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