A child who is a picky eater can create tension on both ends of the fork.
Adults trying to convince the youngster to eat certain foods can become frustrated and resort to pleading, harassing or bribing (with dessert, for example). Children can develop anxieties anticipating that vegetable or fruit they don't like, but which they know is about to be forced upon them.
What should worried parents and harried kids do?
Relax, said Dr. Rachael Fournet, a pediatrician with Novant Health Pediatrics Blakeney. The I'm-not-eating-that routine usually passes. And, according to a recent study published in the journal Appetite, your child's growth won't be affected by being a picky eater.
Fournet recommended some do's and don'ts for reducing dinnertime drama with a selective eater:
Know it won't last forever.
"Most kids grow out of it if you allow them to do it on their own time," Fournet said. "If you back off and let them go through their little phase of thinking new food and broccoli are scary, they will actually grow out of it and pretty quickly. Usually by 3 to 5 years old."
Create a comfortable mood.
Parents are encouraged to keep the dinner table as relaxed as possible. Fournet, mother to a 3-year-old, said they sing songs, play games and try to avoid talking about the food. Set a good example by eating as a family, even if it's takeout. Sit together and give children your undivided attention. Talk about what's happening that day.
Don't threaten or harass.
Adults should stop badgering, punishing and bribing at the table, which often makes the situation worse.
"When kids see this new food on the table as being scary and intimidating, they go into kind of a fight-or-flight mode and they actually get a lot of food anxiety," said Fournet. "Their throat closes up. They get sweaty. Some kids throw up at the table. It gets very dramatic."
Let the child decide
Fournet suggests that parents not offer alternatives to what’s on the table. "This is dinner. You don't have to eat it, but the kitchen's closed and the next meal is breakfast. It's totally up to her. It's her job to decide what goes in her body, not mine."
Skip the ‘clean-plate’ club
Picky eaters get over the phase best when they do it on their own. If parents are always on them to be in the "clean-plate club," they can become scared of certain foods. This could lead to becoming a teen and adult with a very limited diet, which could potentially affect their weight and their health long-term.
Novant Health pediatric providers are committed to keeping your growing child active and healthy. Here’s how your Novant Health pediatrician can help coordinate and manage your child’s care.