My Child Is a Picky Eater

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While some children will cozy up to a table containing almost any type of food, others are exceptionally particular when it comes to filling their plate. If you are constantly tending to the whims of a particularly finicky eater, consider whether you are really helping your particular kid, or if you are instead perhaps feeding into this difficult, and potentially health-impacting, eating pattern.

Causes of Pickiness

Although pickiness is relatively common among kids, not all kids are picky for the same reason. As UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital reports, some children have a biological reason for being picky, as they are more sensitive to food taste, smell and texture. For other children, pickiness is purely a learned behavior. Some children adopt this pickiness as a result of mimicking their parents’ eating habits or following the lead of a friend.

How Much Does He Need?

For some children, pickiness manifests itself in an unwillingness to eat almost everything. If your child is of this variety, you may be concerned about him getting the nutrients he needs for proper growth. To ensure that your child doesn’t suffer ill-health as a result of his minimal food intake, consider how much food he needs. As Dr. Paul reports, parents can determine how many calories their kids should consume by starting with 1,000 and adding 100 for every year their child is old. Following this formula, your picky 5-year-old should consume around 1,500 calories a day, while his finicky 7-year-old sister should be getting about 1,700 calories a day.

Importance of Balance

If your picky eater avoids certain food groups entirely, it could lead to a dietary imbalance. Everyone, adult and child alike, should consume a variety of foods each day. This desired balance is represented by the federal government’s ever-in-flux food pyramid, which serves as a guideline to eaters, telling them how much fruit, vegetables, grain and so forth, they should consume. Do not allow your child to deviate too far from this desired balance, as doing so can result in vitamin deficiencies and failure to thrive.

Reward Adventurousness

Your goal as a parent should be to make your child willing to try an assortment of foods. Just like adults, it is perfectly natural for children not to like some foods and to adore others; however, you should not let your child subsist on a diet consisting only of his favorites. Make experimenting with food a joy to entice your picky eater to branch out. For example, you could keep a sticker chart on the fridge and give your kid a sticker each time he tries a new food, rewarding him with a larger prize once he fills this chart.

Avoid the Custom-Cook Temptation

While making your child a meal of his choosing may seem like the easiest way to deal with a picky eater, engaging in this practice is actually unwise. If you cater to your child’s food desires, you are sending him the wrong message. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital reports, don’t worry if your child’s pickiness causes him to miss one meal. He will eat again soon enough, so this short period of tummy rumbling will not have a lasting effect.

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