Part One ~ Is it Picky Eating?
I am so excited to be sharing this series with you on picky eating at home. As a Nutritionist I have worked with dozens of families with real concerns about picky eaters in their homes. And in many cases, it is a serious concern! I am also a mom of 4 children, 1 of whom has always been a picky eater, to the point that he will starve over eating what has been prepared. This is a real problem for a lot of families and in this series I will cover strategies you can use to help overcome this in your home.
This part is about identifying what a picky eater is, and when its time to be concerned from a nutritional stand point.
So what does picky eating look like? Well if you have one at home, you don't need my description of it! But here it is from a Nutritionist standpoint. Picky eating in children is when there is a flat out refusal to eat a variety of natural and nutrient dense foods. Taste, smell and texture often play a role for many children who are picky eaters, but so can colour and appearance. The concern with serious picky eaters is not only malnutrition, but in many cases an overconsumption of processed foods.
Here is what you need to know about the above reasons your child is feeling resistant to eating foods based on these criteria. They are true in your child’s mind!
Children have very different taste buds than adults and some foods for some children are incredibly potent tasting. Take broccoli and Brussels sprouts for example. These are two foods that are nutritionally potent, and thus also have a potent taste and are often refused by children, especially if they were not well exposed when they were young. Smell and texture, especially when they are new smells and textures can also be overwhelming.
So when should you be concerned?
There are definitely times when picky eating becomes a concern. Listing some but not all........
1. When you child is not eating enough calories and losing weight.
2. When they are not eating enough fibre rich foods like fruits and veggies and they are suffering from chronic constipation.
3. If they are restricting their intake of natural foods and dealing with colds and flus chronically.
These are just a few examples I see often, and from a nutritional standpoint can be concerning. If your child is suffering from any of the above due to picky eating, you likely should talk to a trained expert in health and nutrition. Your family physician is your first step!
Children need quality whole food nutrition on a daily basis, because their bodies need a constant flow of nutrients. Many nutrients (vitamins in this case) are water soluble which means our body does not store them. If we fail to eat enough on a daily basis, the systems these nutrients play a role in, can be negatively impacted or impaired. For example…..
Good daily nutrition is incredibly important for children as they are growing and developing every day, and deficiencies can play a serious role in development and cognitive function. (just google "nutrient deficiencies and cognitive function in children" there is tons of published research in this area!)
Now what if you child eats enough calories, but its coming from mostly processed foods? Well fellow parent, that is just as concerning!! The problem with processed foods is they often contain large amounts of chemicals, flavour enhancers, sugars and salts, all of which all robs their small bodies of its stored nutrients in order for these substances to be broken down. Not only that, these foods are “enriched” with synthetic nutrients, which are poorly recognized absorbed by the body. These types of foods are a source of seriously unhealthy calories, that can lead to an increased risk of child hood obesity. Lets not forget these foods are crazy addictive! And last but not least, processed foods are not a natural source of fibre, which is essential for healthy elimination.
So is your child a picky eater? Is it a problem? Should you be concerned?
That's up to you and your physician. If its deemed a problem connect with a local Dietician or Nutritionist to come up with a strategy. If you are concerned as a parent, that is often enough reason to seek out professional guidance.
Over the next three parts I will share some strategies, downloadable tools and some straight forward guidance on how to move through picky eating at home.
Will it take trial and error? Absolutely!! Will you be able to correct it over night? No way!
Will it be worth it to health and wellbeing of your child? A BIG Yes!!
Picky children who don't learn to experience the benefits of including variety of natural foods, and a willingness to try new things, often become picky adults. I have worked with thousands of people in my 14 year career as a nutritionist who were picky children, who became picky adults. These poor souls often have the hardest time adjusting to a healthy diet, and usually end up seeking the guidance of a nutritional professional for a variety of health concerns that are often linked to their poor nutrition. Lets work together to prevent sickly, malnourished adults and start with our children now.
Stay Tuned to Part Two which has some simple Strategies for picky eaters in your home!
Alisa Herriman has been researching and teaching Nutrition since 2003. Leaving her job in the health care industry to share her passion for healthy living, Alisa travels all over Canada sharing her mission and teaching communities how to prevent and fight disease with Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.