Sometimes it seems like the simplest thing—feeding your kids—can be unnecessarily challenging. When your kid is a picky eater, it means getting tons of advice from friends and family on how to encourage your kids to eat more. As it turns out though, all those tips and tricks might not help, and they actually might do more harm than good.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently conducted a study about kids’ eating habits, the correlation between picky eaters and weight and whether or not parents should pressure their picky eaters to try more foods. The study found that whether a toddler is a picky eater or not had no impact on their weight. In other words, kids still grow and develop normally even when their diets are limited.

The study also found that pressuring kids to try foods that they refused to eat did nothing to change their behavior. In fact, the researchers concluded that pressuring kids could cause harm by damaging the parent and child relationship and could even lead to further picky eating.

“The takeaway here is that pressuring children to eat needs to be done with caution and we don’t have much evidence that it helps with much,” said Julie Lumeng, study author and director of the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development. “As a parent, if you pressure, you need to make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s good for the relationship with your child.”

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While it’s inconvenient, Lumeng concludes that it rarely becomes a serious issue of poor growth and nutrient deficiency. So what should parents of picky eaters do to make mealtimes less frustrating? “Dealing with picky eating falls into the category of how can you do little things that might make meals better for everyone, but not squelch something that may be part of your child’s personality,” Lumeng said.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Pexels

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