Food Struggles and Picky Eaters

Is your child a picky eater? While it may be tempting to bribe her to eat her meals, in the long run this creates more problems than its worth.

Remember how voracious your child’s appetite was as an infant? How quickly that changes! Usually by their eighteenth month, a child’s ravenous appetite diminishes and your child may seem like the pickiest eater on earth. As frustrating as this may be, a child’s lack of appetite at this age is perfectly normal and of no cause for concern explains pediatrician, Dr. Donald Shifron. “If you have a two-year that’s eating one and a half meals a day that’s about average. If he eats breakfast terrific, lunch fair and dinner poor or vice versa, that’s essentially normal for most two-year-olds. Certainly snacking is an essential part of every youngster’s day. But it’s up to you to determine what type of snacks that youngster gets.”

Another concern that often presents itself is food binges such as when your child lives on macaroni and cheese or peanut butter sandwiches. Dr. Shifron says this may simply be a sign of your child’s growing independence. “When your child goes on food binges, it’s important to realize he’s exhibiting preferences and becoming more independent. Even though a parent may be concerned about the lack of a varied diet, it’s better to just ride it out because it’s nearly impossible to get a youngster to eliminate a food binge until he is ready.”

When children refuse to eat or insists on eating the same foods, it’s tempting to try bribes and rewards. But nutritionist Judith Breton believes that not only is this pointless, it can be harmful. “Power struggle over food can result in variety of issues including disordered eating for that child,” explains Breton. “If a child has always been rewarded with food for good behavior, then as the child gets older that can become a really learned behavior. They’ll think they can reward or deprive themselves of food for doing something good or bad and we really want to try to avoid that because that could also lead to eating disorder problems.”

Breton adds it’s important to put less emphasis on the food being served and more on the positive aspects of enjoying mealtime as a family. “Try to make mealtime a really relaxed atmosphere talking about the day. Don’t bribe and reward your child with things like ‘eat your peas and you’ll get your desert’. Give them their desert and try the peas in a couple of days again.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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