Parenting Picky Eaters

I was a picky eater, or maybe just too interested in other things to eat. From about age 9 to 12, I played so hard I would forget to eat. It sounds funny now, but at the time, it was a serious problem. I had to get weekly B12 shots to boost my iron. My dad even made me drink wine at bedtime (like a dose of medicine—awful!) because he thought it would boost my appetite. I'm pretty sure it did not.

I outgrew my problem, but it affected my life in negative ways in high school as I was significantly smaller than my peers. This hurt me in sports, which I loved, and affected my self esteem. I'm not sure what my parents could have done differently, but my mom wishes they had reacted earlier.

Parents must walk a fine line with picky eaters. Forcing children to eat is impossible, and trying makes the dinner table a stressful place for kids and for parents.  But doing nothing may not be a good choice either, especially for a small number of children.

A new study points out that severely picky eaters (about 3% of all children in the study sample) were so picky that it prevented them from normal social routines. These severely selective eaters had a significantly higher incidence of depression, social anxiety, and general anxiety.

The study found that severe selective eating in young children were significantly associated with depression, social anxiety and generalized anxiety.

"Although children with moderate picky eating did not show an increased likelihood of formal psychiatric diagnoses, children with severe selective eating were more than twice as likely to also have a diagnosis of depression.

Children with moderate and severe patterns of selective eating would meet the criteria for an eating disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), a new diagnosis included in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."

published August, 3, 2015 at

Here are some Do's and Don'ts for parents of picky eaters:

1. Don't force your child to eat. Give them an incentive, yes, and encourage them to eat, but don't physically try to force a child to eat.

2.  Do try new things yourself, and encourage the same in your child. Try a new recipe, or re-introduce foods after a few months, even if it was not accepted some time ago. Your child's tastes change over time.

3. Don't make a second meal just to please your child. When dinner time is over, the food is put away and the child must wait until another opportunity arises.

4. Do offer healthy snacks several times a day. That way, you don't have to feel like your child will starve if they miss a meal, and most children will eat when they feel hungry.

5. Do get your child involved in shopping and cooking. Let them pick some things to try, and find some kid-friendly recipes so they can become engaged in the process.

6. Do pay attention and get help if needed. If your child is hurting himself by not eating, see your doctor.