Is mealtime a struggle in your home?
Do you spend more time begging your child to eat than enjoying the meal yourself?
Sadly, you are not alone. Studies show that 1 in 5 preschool aged children is a picky eater. Most children outgrow picky eating by age 4 or 5, and some never outgrow it.
Some kids may actually have a phobia about certain foods that requires a doctor’s care. But for the vast majority of picky eaters it’s just a habit, and habits can be changed. That’s good news for parents, because research shows that eating habits developed during childhood often follow people throughout their lives. Helping your child learn to eat a wide variety of healthy foods early in life will help them be healthy as they become adults.
To encourage your child to eat a wider variety of healthy foods, it is helpful to understand just why they are a picky eater. Researchers generally put picky eaters into one or more of the following groups, based on the reason(s) for their habits:
Exerting Authority. If the child goes into a rage when they are served certain foods, then they may just be exerting their authority. Picky habits often start around the time children are testing the limits of their environment, around 2 years old. They simply refuse to eat certain foods in order to control their world.
Inexperienced Chewers. If the child gags on new foods, they may just have difficulty chewing. They may have had trouble in the past, or may have tried to put too much in their mouth at one time and gaged, so they associate that bad experience with all chewable food.
Over-snacking. If the child pushes food around their plate, but doesn’t eat, then they may just not be hungry. This often happens when children eat or drink too much prior to meals.
Checking Out. Sometimes children get pickier when other family members argue. This is a way to simply exit an unpleasant situation. They may use their choices to leave the “real” world where there is conflict and enter a “fantasy” world of their own design, where they make all the “rules.”
Sensory Confusion. In some rare cases, children may avoid certain foods because of the way their different senses interact. For example, they may not like crunchy foods because they make too much noise, or they may not like wet or slimy foods because of the way they feel.
Really understanding what is causing your child’s picky eating is the first step in resolving it. There are specific strategies for dealing with each of the above situations. Knowing which situation you’re experiencing will help you work with your child and resolve it without fighting.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: 5 Tips for Getting Any Kid to Eat Healthy, McDonald’s Serves Healthier Happy Meals – Finally!