Nutrition And Picky Children

During the toddler stage, throughout the school ages, and into the teen years, children sometimes display finicky tendencies when it comes to food. As a result of consistent picky eating, children can develop nutritional deficiencies. Even when the pickiness causes no lasting harm, it can make some parents anxious.

Picky Eaters During the Toddler Years

Toddlers are just learning to express themselves and exert their will upon their environments. This newly-developing sense of control and autonomy can appear in the form of picky eating. Children at this age will often go to extremes or have temper tantrums over food preferences. Fortunately, toddlers have short attention spans, and mixing offending foods into more desirable foods can be fairly easy.

During this stage, it’s a good idea not to let food become a power struggle. This could extend conflicts that would otherwise be forgotten quickly.

Keep eating times regimented, so when a meal is skipped, the toddler comes to the table hungry for the following meal and less inclined to be picky.

School-Age Picky Eaters

The school-age years can be a bit more challenging for the parents of a picky eater. Children at this age have clearer reasons for their food preferences and are better able to express themselves.

During these years, setting a good example is the easiest way for parents to manage picky eating. Children see parents as role models, and simply enjoying the mushrooms or fish that your child claims to dislike may ignite a sense of curiosity or open-mindedness toward the food that wouldn’t have otherwise taken hold.

To combat picky eating, make food fun. Prepare it in different ways, cut it into fun shapes, or allow your child to help in the kitchen.

Don’t indulge every food-rejection tendency a child expresses during these years, since lifelong habits are formed at this time. We’ve all known someone who grows into adulthood believing that he or she dislikes cabbage or peppers as a matter of habit or personal identity, without ever having actually tried them.

Teenage Picky Eaters

Selectivity during the teen years can stem from a variety of reasons, and personal preferences expressed during these years naturally warrant more parental respect than those expressed during the toddler years. Teenagers sometimes reject a food based on reports about its nutritive value, fat content, or toxicity. Sometimes they reject a food, like meat, out of a growing set of philosophical or moral values.

If possible, let teenagers follow through on their deliberate choices. But setting a healthy example is still helpful at this time, and making a variety of foods available to the teenager can help cover any nutrient gaps that may cause concern. Augmenting a teenager’s diet with nutritional supplements is another option to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need.

Resources

Keep Kids Healthy.com. (2009). Picky eaters. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/parenting_tips/picky_eaters.html

Nissenberg, S. (2010). Managing picky eaters. Retrieved September 4, 2010, from http://www.superkidsnutrition.com/infants_toddlers/wh_managepickyeaters.php