Demanding that a child eat, or limit food is associated with some of the most chosen eaters, according to the study, published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Eating is one of the few domains that children can control,” said senior author Dr. Megan Pesch, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Michigan Medicine C. M. Children’s Hospital Mott.
Lower food turnout rates in children are associated with parents imposes some restrictions on food and lack of pressure to eat.
Families in this study qualify for the United States Department of Health and Human Services Head Start program, which means they live at or below the federal government’s poverty level for a family of four, currently $ 25,000 a year. Researchers ask parents to respond to questionnaires that describe the level of their child’s pick and how parents handle the problem.
Parents complete the questionnaire when their children are 4, 5, 8 and 9 years old.
“What makes this research truly unique is that we can map this behavior over a longer period of time,” Pesch said, adding that this study did not find that a child grew out of his picky eating behavior within five years. Whether it will continue as the child grows, he said, is “an important question for future studies.”
Children are divided into selective, low, medium and high levels of food. About 15% of children in this study belong to the “high” food pick-up group, where children do not often receive vegetables or are very nervous about new foods.
These children may have “thousands of negative memories about food,” such as eating conflicts, unexpected tastes and discomfort, said Nancy Zucker, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, and Sheryl Hughes, Baylor College of Medicine professor of child nutrition, in a joint editorial.
“It is very important that caregivers release their need for children to feel something and instead focus on accumulating pleasant experiences,” they wrote.
“Don’t force children to clean their plates,” Pesch said. “Don’t make them sit at the dinner table until they eat a certain amount of food. And avoid bribing food.”
That can be difficult for parents, Pesch admitted, sharing that he also struggled not to do the same with his three small children.
“The natural tendency is to say, ‘If you eat green beans, you can get dessert.’ But that can backfire and create a greater negative relationship with the food, “he said.
This study found no differences among children due to socioeconomic demographics, but did find higher levels of chooser food among children who had problems regulating their emotions. Children are more vulnerable to excessive mood swings with the possibility of increased anger.
“Some children are prepared to be more careful, to be a little more anxious,” Pesch said. “I don’t think parents should really feel guilty about this. Some children will only be picky.”
Try this ‘best practice’
Because picky eating is proven at age 4 and is not easy during the five years of research, “interventions must begin at a younger age because of the stability of the picky eating trajectory over time,” Zucker and Hughes wrote in an editorial.
The best time to introduce new foods is when babies start solid food at six months, experts say, and then continue to offer a variety of formative foods throughout the toddler year.
More tips from experts, which can be applied to almost all ages, including:
Don’t give up on food. One of the best practices for parents who deal with food pickers is to expose your child to food several times, experts say, and always without stress.
“It might take several times before they even tolerate having it on their plates or are interested in biting. But still put it on the dinner table,” Pesch suggested.
Role models enjoy food. Parents and older siblings and caregivers should be role models to eat and enjoy a variety of foods, experts say.
“Seeing someone who is loved and trusted to eat that food a few times will normalize it a little and that has been shown to increase food acceptance, especially for children who may have a more anxious or cautious temperament,” Pesch said.
Involve the children in choosing food and preparing it. When you go to the grocery store, ask your child to choose one or two vegetables, and, if possible, let him help prepare food to eat.
“Seeing where the food comes from and getting them to participate in the preparation is a bit of a description,” Pesch said. “They can become more connected to food and be proud of something they do, which creates more positive associations with new food intake.”
Give options. Don’t give up on “green beans are the only vegetable that my child will eat,” experts say. It only teaches your child that eating time is monotonous. Diversity is the spice of life, so it says.
Make food fun. Sit as family to eat, without TV or telephone. Then tell, ask everyone about their day, play pleasant music – the choices are endless to make mealtime something to look forward to. It also reinforces that food is for fuel, not fighting, and puts mealtimes into categories fun activities that build family togetherness.
Don’t separate food. If your child has developed some picky ideas about what he will eat, don’t fall into the trap of making food for him and food for the whole family. Eat something nutritious that he can eat on the table, then leave it, say experts.
Picky eaters and weight
“Picky eaters generally tend to eat processed foods that are high in carbohydrates, high in fat, and tastier,” Pesch said. “But research has really shown that in developed countries, like the United States, we don’t see much – if any – lack of micronutrients in food pickers.
“I go back to the type of mac-and-cheese picky dinner – even if it’s not the healthiest food choice, it’s been enriched with some vitamins and minerals and at least the voter eats no shortage,” Pesch added. “So overall we see that these children are growing up well, which I hope can be really convincing for parents.”
More convincing: Giving up the power struggle over food can actually cut your child’s picky behavior. If not, experts say there is no harm in contacting your pediatrician or nutritionist for further advice.
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