Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Picky Eaters

Recently I was reading an advice column where a mother was asking how to get her young child to eat healthy food without doctoring it with ketchup. The advice columnist simply gave the age old adages for getting young picky eaters to try new foods.
I read it and could only come up with one thought. “You’re overlooking a major cause of picky eating.”
I personally know several adults who were picky eaters as toddlers. In one case, the person falls on the autism spectrum. It’s a texture problem. In the other cases, it turned out the food the people didn’t like were foods they were actually allergic to, and those allergies got worse as they got older.
A pre-school aged child doesn’t understand everything that is going on, nor do they have the words to explain exactly what he is feeling. I know my own daughter fought me for years on chunky peanut butter. She hated it, always said it made her feel like she was choking.
Guess what? She’s allergic to peanuts. Actually now basically every type of nut there is.
She’s also never liked peas.
Guess what else now makes her very sick, as in major allergic reaction. The close cousin of peas, soy.
I could go on and on at this point about how much trouble it is to have to feed someone on any type of restricted diet. However, the point I wanted to make here, was that even young kids, who don’t have the words, or even the understanding to know what they are feeling isn’t normal, still know what they don’t like and can try to express it in some ways.
When a child won’t eat certain foods why do we just assume they are being picky and simply try to find ways to make them eat the offending food? Why can’t we first check to see if there might be a reason for them to not like that food?
My youngest daughter has always, always hated chunky peanut butter and peas.
I figured she was my picky eater. First I ignored it. Then I did a tiny bit to accommodate it. I bought some creamy peanut butter. Eventually I let her dig the peas out of her food and not eat them. Finally, as she became an adult and her allergies got worse and worse, I listened to her.
Another person I know who was a picky eater as a child still shows all the symptoms of being on the autism spectrum, though high enough not to have been institutionalized and forgotten as a child back in the era when it was still fairly common to tell parents to forget their children who would ‘never live a normal life’.
My point is, don’t assume a toddler refusing food is doing it to be a fussy kid. They might just be doing it because they are actually allergic to that food, or maybe there is another medical reason for it.
Really listen to what your child says about it. If they say it makes them feel like they are choking, think allergies. If they talk about how yucky it is or feels, think possible sensory issues, like those on the autism spectrum.
I also admit toddlers will refuse to eat. And that could just be a phase. It too shall pass. And you can help it pass by utilizing those age old adages to encourage them to try new foods, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you look at when dealing with a picky eater.
This from a mother who knows.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

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