What to do when your child is more than just a “picky” eater

Small children are picky eaters – it’s both common and normal. However, there are a few signs that your young child might be After just picky. If you think your child’s difficulty has become extreme, but you’re not sure why, you may want to seek help. You may be worried that your child will develop an eating disorder when they get older, or you may have concerns about an underlying medical condition. Here’s what to watch out for and consider.

Signs your child is more than just a picky eater

Although small children may have idiosyncrasies when it comes to their favorite foods, even to the point of throwing big tantrums when you serve off-brand chicken nuggets or tiny oranges that are too “dry,” there are clues. that there’s more to play besides the developmentally appropriate hustle and bustle that most little kids go through.

Some things to watch out for include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems: upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea or constipation
  • Vomiting after eating or vomiting when trying new foods
  • Frequent choking episodes
  • Fear of choking or vomiting, sometimes causing them to be too afraid to eat
  • Significant weight loss or frequently being “below the curve” on weight charts during checkups
  • Refusing to eat when they should logically be hungry
  • Avoiding entire food categories (all foods combined, all unpackaged foods, all foods of the same texture)
  • eat very slowly
  • Inability to eat in front of others

You may be concerned about nutritional deficiency due to the selectivity of your child’s diet, and the inability to have a family meal may cause tension. Your child may be irritable or low on energy because he is not getting enough nutritious food.

What to do next

The first step is not to try to force your child to eat, although as a parent you might feel that it is your most basic job to keep your child alive through sustenance. . Make an appointment with your doctor – they will want to do an exam to rule out any illnesses or medical conditions that may go away on their own or require medication.

They will also make sure there are no chronic or other contributing medical conditions. Some, but not all, medical conditions that can affect a child’s ability to eat normally may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • tongue tie
  • Cancer
  • Food allergy or intolerance

You may be referred to exclude any of these conditions. If anything does arise, your doctor will guide you on how to manage or treat from there.

If your doctor determines that there is no medical cause for your child’s eating problems, they may move on to a developmental or mental cause. Many children have sensory issues with food, which may or may not lead to a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, such as anxiety, autism, sensory processing disorder, or restrictive avoidant food intake disorder ( ARFID), a mental state similar to anorexia that does not include body image issues.

If your child has a mental health problem that prevents them from eating, you may be referred to different types of specialists. Food specialists are specific types of therapists who help families deal with these kinds of issues. For children with sensory issues or autism, an occupational therapist is often trained in food therapy and can help your child get used to different textures and types of food. For children who are anxious about food, a therapist who can talk to them or play with them while they work through some of their fears around food might be helpful.

It also helps to reframe your own mindset

Our adult world is steeped in a diet culture that can be hard to avoid, even thinking of our little children and their growing bodies. However, your providers will help you frame your thinking and use words to help your child best reintegrate food into their life in a healthy, holistic way, without fear or shame.

Keep in mind that while it might be difficult to cook dinner for your family so that only one child literally vomits in disgust, they’re not doing it to drive you crazy. Changing what “family dinner” looks like for now to help your child create lifelong healthy eating habits and change the culture around food and mental illness, preparing your kids to a happier and more balanced relationship with food as they grow.

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