If you have a child that is just a little stubborn or persnickety, then this likely isn’t for you. If, however, you have a child (or an adult for that matter) that just REFUSES certain foods after you have tried everything short of letting them starve with the hopes that if they get hungry enough they will finally eat to no avail, then listen up! It may NOT be all in their head! Your picky eater may very well have a medical issue that needs to be addressed by the appropriate professional.
There are several reasons why your child may be avoiding certain foods. If there is a theme to their refusal, that may give you some clues as to what the problem may be. For instance, do they seem to avoid foods with strong or distinct odors? or do they always smell their food before they try it?, then there may be a sensory processing issue that is causing an aversion to smells. This can be evaluated and addressed by a well trained Occupational Therapist.
Do they seem to avoid certain textures? For example, do they seem to only like soft foods like things made from ground meat like spaghetti, chili, well cooked vegetables? or they just “can NOT” swallow pills to save their life? It might not be an issue of just mind over matter. There could be a texture aversion and/or an oral motor coordination problem. We sometimes take for granted that everyone knows how to shift the food to the back of the mouth so that the molars can properly grind the food and then move the food back to the back of the tongue and then swallow it. Infants have a reverse swallow that facilitates breastfeeding but as they mature so should their swallow. If it doesn’t, I’m sure that you can imagine what it must be like to get food (or pills) to go down your throat if your tongue keeps pushing things forward instead. Hence, the preference for super soft foods that are easy to try to slide down the chute backwards. Also, bear in mind that gastroesophageal reflux can sometimes coexist with an oral motor/swallow problem or just be the culprit in and of itself. Be sure to consider that as well. Again, a well trained Occupational or Speech Therapist – especially one that specializes in oral-motor coordination or myofunctional (muscle function) issues may be able to evaluate all of these problems and help if needed.
Another sometimes subtle issue could be food allergies or intolerances. If your tummy hurt overtime you ate cheese for instance, you don’t have to a rocket scientist to decide that eating cheese isn’t such a good idea…Your physician can order simple blood tests to evaluate for this possibility with just one needle stick versus the VERY uncomfortable skin prick tests. Start keeping a journal of the foods or food groups that are being avoided and bring that with you to the appointment to help hash out which food panels should be ordered and any foods or ingredients that may need to be added to customize the standard panels.
Of course, if none of these ring true for your family, then stick with the good old “tricks” to get more buy in from your picky eater when it comes to meal time. Remember, small children have control over two things – what goes in, and what comes out! Sometimes they say ‘no!’ just for the sake of saying no. Try not to get in a power struggle with a young toddler. If you’re fighting with a small child about something iso basic, then you may have already lost. Besides, it’s just not a good look.
Where age appropriate include them in the grocery shopping selection or food preparation. Offer two reasonable choices before you prep the food when possible. ‘Would you like peas or broccoli for dinner tonight?’ “PEAS!” I call that a win-win. The kid feels like that have a little power/choice, and they’re eating something green. Score!
Happy Healthy Living!
Until next time…
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The Doctor is in!