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Picky Eaters and Food Allergies

Picky Eaters and Food Allergies

While picky eating is a very common problem for so many children, it becomes problematic when food acceptance is highly limited. If the following feeding behaviors are common in your child, you might have a problem feeder. Does your child:
-eliminate entire food groups?
-have issues with growth, weight, and development?
-exhibit strong phobic reactions to new foods such as tantrums, vomiting, or gagging?
-have a very limited repertoire of foods they are willing to eat?

While a picky eater might be very selective, they tend to return to foods after a period of time and have a more varied diet of approximately 30-40 foods in their diet. A problem feeder is more likely to exhibit stronger reactions to foods, such as those listed above, and may only have approximately 10 foods in their repertoire.

The following tips can be helpful for both picky and problematic feeders:
1. Avoid mealtime battles. Parents are in charge of when and what children eat; children are in touch of whether they eat and how much. Nagging, stressing or bribing might only serve to make a picky eater even pickier. Removing mealtime stress is crucial.

2. Rule out food allergies, intolerance’s, sensitivities, or other gastrointestinal issues. Eating can be such an uncomfortable experience for so many children so ruling out a medical condition must be one of your first steps.

3. Many children with sensory processing disorders or extreme oral aversions may exhibit excessive defensiveness to different textures, smells, tastes, and sounds, making eating a huge challenge. Occupational therapists specializing in this area can help determine if your child has sensory issues and appropriate interventions to deal with them.

4. It is very common for children to be apprehensive about trying new foods. It might take up to 20 times of introducing the food (even visually) before they will like it. Don’t give up-keep introducing.

5. Use other senses to build comfort with foods. Smelling, touching, and playing with foods can be a great start in gaining acceptance.

6. Realize that food jags are common. While a child might get stuck on certain foods for a short period of time, avoid being a short-order cook who caters to these patterns. Consider making variations to favorites to slowly break out of the jag. For example, if your child will only eat plain pasta, start by mixing the pasta with another variety. Then start to add another ingredient such as chopped chicken, then cooked peas, and so on.

Above all, being a good role model is a key component to teaching healthy eating habits. Children do as they see, not as they hear. Enjoy family meals together, sit with your child while they eat, and avoid making mealtime a battle of wills.