Does parental anxiety cause picky eating in kids?

Does parental anxiety cause picky eating in kids?

A new study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, may show a link between anxiety and/or depression in parents and picky eating in preschool aged children.

The study, conducted in the Netherlands, analyzed more than 4,000 mothers and fathers and their children, born between 2002 and 2006. In this group, 30 percent of the toddlers became picky eaters by age 3, and they were more likely to be picky if their parents exhibited anxiety or depression between pregnancy and their child reaching three years old.

For many toddlers, however, picky eating is a normal phase, says Dr. Christina Swanson, a pediatrician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.

“The only time I would be concerned about picky eating is if it negatively impacts their weight,” Dr. Swanson says. “It is a normal behavioral phase that kids go through.”

However, Dr. Swanson urges parents to not allow the child to determine the food choices at meal times.

Parents should continue to offer the same foods instead of taking them off the menu. Research shows that repeated exposure leads to an uptick in eating,” she adds.

Additionally, Dr. Swanson offers these suggestions for how to manage eating times:

  • Always have a fruit, a vegetable, protein and dairy at each meal.
  • Offer items at each meal that you know the child will want and items that are “iffy.”
  • Model good eating behavior for your children.
  • Keep in mind that some children take longer than others to move past picky eating.
  • Once the child is preschool age, you can create a reward system or use other behavior modification techniques.
  • Encourage them to at least take one bite of each food item at each meal.

She adds that once children start preschool and kindergarten, they often will begin to try new foods as they observe their classmates.

If the picky eating persists and the child also exhibits other sensory sensitivities, an occupational therapist may be an option. Dr. Swanson also recommends reaching out to your pediatrician to discuss any concerns and to explore appropriate care plans.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.