How Picky Eating Affects the Health of Your Child
By Chris Brown
Have you ever noticed your child is a picky eater? Has the pickiness gotten worse, and not better, with age? Some food pickiness is normal in children, with 14-20 percent of parents labeling their child as choosy eaters from the ages of 2 and 5. Knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy pickiness can help guide your parenting style. Addressing unhealthy picky eating habits early can keep your child's development strong and help them to grow into a healthy human.
Picky Eating May Affect Growth and Development
A light degree of short-term picky eating shouldn't have long-term developmental consequences. However, picky eating children with persistent or severe selective eating habits may experience problems into adolescence including thinness, smaller stature, and an increased risk of eating disorders. Additionally, picky eaters are at risk of malnourishment in youth. Nutrient deficiencies from picky eating, commonly with low levels of iron, zinc, or dietary fibers, can result in fatigue and developmental impacts. With so much growth taking place in the early years of life, optimal nutrition is vital for a child's wellbeing as they age.
Picky Eating May Signify Mental Health Disorders
In a study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, by Duke Medicine, severe pickiness was associated with higher incidents of anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In fact, the picky eating children were more than twice as likely to also develop depression and generalized anxiety disorder. While picky eating is most likely the result, and not the cause, of these disorders, researchers believe that it could be used for early diagnosis. Diagnosing these conditions early could help parents modify their parenting and provide treatment during crucial early developmental periods. This may help alleviate many of the typical problems of these diseases that come with age.
What to Do If Your Child Is a Picky Eater
In good news, picky eating often resolves overtime without intervention. However, it is important to encourage your child to try new foods by exposing them to a variety of cuisines and by modeling healthy eating habits via your own diet. Your child's peculiar eating habits may also signify an opportunity to evaluate potential mental health concerns or anxieties. By addressing the root cause, their eating habits may resolve themselves. Regardless, keeping an eye on picky eating is one of the many tasks a parent can do to ensure their child grows up with optimal health.
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