Frustrated with your picky child’s food? If you are trying to fix a problem by becoming a food policeman, you might make your child’s eating habits worse, according to a new study that has followed more than 300 pairs of parents and children over five years.
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.
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 conflicts over eating, 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’s important that caregivers let go of their need for children to feel something and instead focus on accumulating pleasant experiences,” they write.
“Don’t force children to clean their plates,” Pesch said. “Don’t make them sit at the dinner table until they eat some 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.
“It’s a natural tendency to say, ‘If you eat green beans, you can have 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 these ‘best practices’
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.
Pediatrician Dr. Ask Altmann, author of “What to Feed Your Baby” has a list “11 basic meals” He is sure to help children learn to love healthy food. “Let your baby lean back and open his mouth when he wants to eat,” Altmann told CNN in an earlier interview. “Don’t force feed or play airplane games – it doesn’t help.”
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 leave it on their plates or are interested in biting. But still place it on the dining table, “Pesch suggested.
If fact nutritional research Suggested children may need up to 12 exposures – not eating, just exposures like seeing it or helping to prepare it – to say that they “like” food. Disturb it with a negative experience, and they might prematurely put food in a “dislike” bucket.
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
The good news about food pickers is that research shows does not appear to cause weight gain. That was proven in this new study too, where picky eating was associated with lower body mass score (BMI). Is it because of their poor nutrition?
“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 eater doesn’t lack,” Pesch added. “So overall we see that these children are growing up well, which I hope can be really convincing for parents.”
More convincing: Letting go of the power struggle over food can actually reduce your child’s picky behavior. If not, experts say there is no harm in contacting a pediatrician or nutrition health expert to get further advice.
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