Does parental anxiety cause picky eating in kids?
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.
“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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