Why get help?The context we live in today includes the huge amount of unhealthy food available in most places, the vast money manufacturers spend on advertising unhealthy food to kids, and that foods which are most processed are not necessarily the best for our children.
While kids may gravitate to eating the easiest foods
(like white bread) as they are a quick source of energy, this results in frequent low sugar levels
(ie your child is running out of fuel
for both their body and mind
). This may result in your child being irritable, losing concentration etc.
Grazing is common for many children. This means eating small amounts of foods throughout the day and they don't come to the table hungry for meals.
Some children only want to eat their preferred foods and if they are unwilling to try new foods, then their options can be very limited.
Many kids go through phases of not eating certain foods, like excluding whole food groups
. This can result in your child not getting their required range of nutrients and may adversely affect their development
during these crucial years. Our immune system, for example, is large and complex and needs a variety of different vitamins and minerals.
In addition another concern is that fussy eating persists in the long-term. Research shows that at least 25% of typically developing kids won’t grow out of picky eating.
The longer a child is a fussy eater eg not eating any vegetables, the more it can become a habit. This means it can be more challenging to turn the picky eating around. Therefore the earlier you can tackle this, the easier. Unknown to many people, research shows that young kids don’t have stable food preferences.
Of course its natural for parents to feel anxious when they’re worried about their child's eating. This is often sensed by your child and it can have a negative impact on your child's eating. Research shows stress reduces digestive activity and the result is often a child can’t absorb all of the nutrients they need. Many children are low or deficient, for example, in zinc; with the possible consequence of diminished appetite.
When is it a good time to get help?
While picky eating is a 'normal phase' for many toddlers and it can be difficult to know if it's going to last. Therefore its important to know what to be more concerned about:
- Your child has experienced weight loss or isn't growing.
- Your child refuses to eat major food groups such as vegetables or protein foods.
- If their list of acceptable foods is short or declining over time.
- Your child demonstrates a negative response to many foods, including signs of distress or anxiety, such as crying, anger, or tantrums.
- Your child is overweight. It’s a myth to assume all fussy eaters are thin. Some picky eaters are overweight because they mainly eat unhealthy foods and not enough vegetables etc.
- Your child is resistant to subtle changes in food e.g., if its served differently to how “exactly they like it,” or changes in their preferred brands etc.
- Your child mainly eats different foods from the rest of the family.