by Lori Francis
I have heard that a lot. I have said that a lot about my own child. Parents tend to use a very narrow lens when it comes to their children’s eating. It’s easier to think about what your child ate or didn’t eat at the previous meal as a way of gauging what they are or are not eating at the current meal. We can focus so much on an individual meal that we lose sight of the fact that overall, our little picky eaters are eating, and they most likely are eating enough. They just may not be eating what we want them to eat, or the amount that we think is appropriate for them.
Picky eating tends to peak between 18 and 24 months, a time when children’s growth is slow. During this time, children actually don’t need to eat as much as they were eating previously. Remember when your child was wearing 3-month-size clothing for less than 3 months? Now they are wearing the same size for 6 to 9 months, maybe even a year! So, if that is true, we will find that many of our fears about children getting enough to eat are unwarranted. This, of course, would not apply in extreme cases of food refusal which can result in what is known as failure to thrive.
Now, I won’t deny that I still tend to freak out about my child not eating enough. As a childhood obesity researcher, I hear about picky eating all the time, and have read reports of many studies that have tried to address picky eating. There is the study that reports that even though children may reject a new food the first time, they may accept it if it’s offered to them on multiple occasions. There’s another study that reports that the more you pressure a child to eat a certain food (usually foods they don’t want to eat, like vegetables) the less they like the pressured food. On the contrary, the more you restrict children’s access to and intake of highly desired foods (like junk foods), the more they want, ask for and overeat those forbidden fruits! Despite knowing a lot about the research, and the science behind picky eating, there is something that tugs at a parents’ heart when you sit down to a meal and hear words like “all done” before your child has even taken one bite.
Through this blog, I will share evidence from research on children’s eating behaviors, and I will also share stories from my own experiences with a little picky eater. Again, even though I still freak out about his eating every so often, I have learned how to make sure that the few foods my son WILL eat are good foods, and that he eats a balanced diet. Many of my posts will be product reviews, especially for things my son accepted without any poking and prodding. Other posts will translate research findings into tips that parents of little picky eaters may find helpful. And some posts will just be fun or interesting stories about food and eating. I hope you find this information helpful!