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Is My Child's Picky Eating a Problem?

So you've tried all the fun plates and cute food presentations, but nothing has changed. Here are some red flags that your child is struggling with eating and may not just be a little picky.

Picky eaters usually have a variety of foods they'll eat (around 30 different foods), they may stop eating their favorites for short periods but will return to them after a few weeks. Picky eaters may have limited foods but they will be a variety of textures and foods with varied nutritional value. Picky eaters may taste a new food with a little encouragement but won't easily add new foods to their weekly meals. Problem eaters usually have less than 20-different foods, once they stop eating a favorite food they don't return to it and will often become more and more limited in what they will frequently eat. It's very hard to get them to eat with the family and distraction often has to be used to get them to eat even favorites. Distractions might be letting them watch a favorite show during meal time or not having a meal time (those little ones who just have small snacks and bites of food throughout the day). The foods they do eat are limited in variety of texture and or nutritional value. If you're little one checks one or more of the traits of problem eating you may want to seek out additional support. Start with discussing concerns with your child's pediatrician. They may refer you to see a Speech and Language Therapist (SLP) or Occupational Therapist (OT) to have your child's feeding skills evaluated. During the evaluation a detailed feeding and medical history should be discussed. For many children who are considered "picky eaters" there is often a history of feeding or digestive concerns. Sometimes these things resolve but all the negative experiences your little one had with food at an early age continues to impact their ability to become an adventurous eater. The feeding therapist will typically take an inventory of the foods they currently eat, do an oral motor assessment and observe them eating. Some things they are looking for are what do the foods they currently eat have in common, this will possibly give a lot of clues as to why they are limiting foods. They'll do an oral motor assessment and this will look at the oral structures such as how they are using their tongue, how they bite, chew and swallow. If you go for an evaluation you will likely be asked to bring some of your child's favorite and non-preferred foods. The therapist may try a few new techniques at the evaluation, but at a minimum will observe how they manage the foods they like and what their reaction to being presented to non-preferred or new foods is. The therapist will put all these pieces together and make recommendations. For some children there are underlying medical issues that may need to be addressed like food allergies, reflux non-typical oral structures like a tongue tie. Your therapist should be able to help make recommendations if this is the case and should discuss concerns with your child's pediatrician. 4 different kids may all eat the same 3 or 4 foods but will likely all be doing this for different reasons. Your therapist should help your family and child work on these underlying skills to help them become little adventurous eaters. There are many underlying factors that impact feeding and they need to specifically addressed. If you have concerns about picky eating talk to your child's pediatrician and request an evaluation from a feeding specialist. Good luck and be a good model of adventurous eating for your child. We'll be doing some picky eating presentations at the clinic in the near future. So check our Facebook page Today and Beyond Pediatric Therapy for more information. Check out our Facebook page for more information on upcoming Picky Eater information class and group therapy. Thanks for reading-Angela

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