Food and Nutrition
Many children have strong food preferences. Whether a child feels strongly about a certain food color, group, or texture, food preferences can affect nutritional intake. Parents and caregivers of picky eaters may become concerned that these eating behaviors will negatively affect a child’s development.
While nutrition is important for overall health, healthcare professionals are usually more concerned with a child’s growth and weight remaining within the age range for normal development. Parents and caregivers may find that making small, healthy changes to snacks and mealtimes can increase a child’s interest in eating different foods, while still respecting their preferences.
Tips for Improving Eating:
- Provide opportunities for children to make choices.
- Avoid attempts to control intake, which can lead to a power struggle.
- Offer a variety of foods (on multiple occasions) to support expanding a child’s palate.
- Set up a routine for specific mealtimes.
- Try to create a fun atmosphere at mealtimes.
- Limit desserts and high calorie beverages.
- Avoid cooking separate meals for a child (remain consistent with what other household members are eating).
When to Seek Help:
If a child’s poor eating habits do not improve, it may be time to contact a healthcare professional. It will be important to tell the healthcare professional about the frequency, intensity, and duration of the child’s eating behaviors. It may also be beneficial for parents or caregivers to keep a log of the child’s eating activity. This log can be used to record what foods the child will eat and what foods have been attempted. It will also be helpful for the healthcare professional to know what the child’s eating schedule is like, how active they are during the day and if/when they take medications that might affect appetite. This information will be used to guide decision making about appropriate next steps. Next steps may include: a nutrition consultation referral, bloodwork, or referral to a specialist.