Young picky eaters often have poorer diets
Young, picky eaters can make mealtime difficult for parents. As a result, parents ultimately give up and give in, which can mean that the picky eater dines on different foods than the rest of the family, research says.
Study results published in a late April paper from the University of Edinburgh indicate that this approach may affect children’s diets.
The research found that children who rarely or never eat the same food as their parents compared to those who do are far more likely to have healthier diets.
“Offering separate ‘children’s food’ for a main meal may often result in children missing out nutritionally,” said Valeria Skafida, author of the paper and research fellow at the university, in a statement.
The study examined different aspects of family meals of 2,000 5-year-olds, and the aspect that had the biggest impact was whether children ate the same food as their parents.
“It is likely that in cases where children eat different foods, they are eating a less nutritious option. This is already known to be the case with kid’s menus in restaurants, so children are best off eating the same foods as their parents,” added Skafida.
Other meal habits had less of an impact. Some other meal aspects and habits that were studied included:
- Not eating a main meal during the day or at regular times
- Frequent between-meal snacking
- Eating in the bedroom or living room
- An unpleasant attitude during mealtime
All of these, the study found, were weakly associated with poorer diets.
The paper called for government guidelines to be kept simple. It also explained that some targets, like the amount of salt intake for a 3-year-old, for example, put unrealistic and impractical expectations on parents when monitoring nutrition.
In light of the finds, the paper also called for parents to pay more attention on establishing good eating habits in their children’s early years.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.
I have two picky eaters at home. I do my best to offer them the same meal that we are eating or at least some variation of the food (perhaps without the sauce or a different preparation). I do find it challenging, but my kids are on the skinny side, so I struggle with getting them to eat at all. My pediatrician recommends that the parents tell the kids what to eat and when, and the kids get to decide how much to eat, if any. We try to practice that at our house with some success. We always encourage our kids to at least try everything.
That sounds like an excellent recommendation from your pediatrician, Angela!
My 19-month-old has become very picky, preferring only fruit, crackers, bread, pasta and, of course, anything sweet. I hope once more of his teeth come in (he has only about five), we can try more things. But I don’t know what he’ll eat from one day to the next. He turns up his nose at food he scarfed down a day earlier.