Friday, December 11, 2015

Picky Eaters

First, let me say that there are, indeed some kids with aversions to different food textures and smells.  There are kids with true sensory issues during meal times.  These are not the kids I am referring to in this post.
The kids I am posting about today are kids that are shaped to have food preferences and behaviors. Kids that refuse to eat certain food groups, or textures.  Kids that will eat only "kid friendly" foods such as chicken nuggets, french fries etc.  Kids that are inadvertently shaped by their parents' behaviors and attitudes about food.  I am not stating that these parents are bad parents or not doing what they feel is best for their child.  For the most part, these parents just are not aware, or don't understand that they are negatively affecting their child's eating habits.
For example, I had a mom very concerned with the fact that her 5 year old child wouldn't  eat anything but junk and "kid friendly" meals.  She said her child would fuss and cry if presented with other food groups, especially fruits and she felt it was a sensory issue.  This perplexed me since this child demonstrated no other sensory concerns.  So, the next session I had with this child, I presented fruit for a snack.  The child not only ate 3 servings, without any prompting from me, but cried when I ran out of the fruit.  I then presented other "non-preferred" foods during my next few sessions, with the same results.  As I was extremely baffled why this child's mother was concerned, I delved into the home life.  And, as I had suspected, this child's "food aversion" was due to the parent's behavior.  Turns out that mom doesn't eat fruits or vegetables, either, and therefore, they were not offered often at home.  Mom asked what the kids wanted for dinner each night and then allowed them to "graze" on their food until they were finished.  Of course, the kids requested "kid friendly" food and that is what the entire family ate every night.  This mom had inadvertently caused her child's bad eating habits.  It wasn't "sensory" at all, but a learned behavior.  If the child fussed when presented with fruits or vegetables, they were immediately taken away to prevent a melt down. 
Kids need to have a variety of foods to grow and for brain development.  They needs fruits and vegetables to be healthy.  These food should be offered often and kids should be encouraged to eat these foods at meals.  Parents need to be good role models to their kids and demonstrate how good these foods taste.  Meals should be presented at a table or island and kids need to sit to eat and not wander around, taking bites now and then until they are done eating.  Good eating habits start in the home, and should start early on in life.  The older a child gets, the more difficult it is to change bad eating habits.  Present non-preferred foods many times and have the child take one bite before eating a preferred food.  I find some parents are afraid of upsetting their child so don't push things that may not be liked by the child.  Consistency is key to instilling good eating habits and it is ok to upset your child so that he/she will grow up healthy. 

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