Before your kiddos start playing doctor, you’ve already mastered the art of that role yourself. You may not have a plastic stethoscope, but from the minute your little one was born, you’ve been paying attention to their heartbeat and trying your best to notice symptoms and form diagnoses.
You don’t want your judgment to be the end-all, be-all—but you do hope that you have it right at least two out of three times because the biggest question you’re asking is: does my little one need to go to a doctor?
Our expert, Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN of Real Nutrition NYC thinks there are some things you can do to help your little one who is scared of new foods. For instance, giving little ones positive, stress-free feelings around meal time can give them something positive to mimic and replace any anxiety with.
But, what happens when picky eating becomes something you’re starting to lose sleep over? We’ve compiled three questions to ask yourself to help figure out how to best address the “no food other than french fries” mantra.
1. When did the picky eating start?
I know it feels like you’ve been living this journey for a million years, but actually taking a few minutes to think back to your earliest recollection of picky eating can help you determine whether it may be a phase or whether it could be indicative of a larger, more chronic issue.
If your little one has always had trouble taking in new foods, it could be less picky eating and more about trouble chewing or moving his or her jaw in a specific way. An article from The New York Times noted how one little one was able to nix picky eating (and gain weight) once he started seeing a speech therapist that helped him learn how to use his jaw and mouth better.
2. Is the “yes” food list getting smaller and smaller?
Parents.com dubs this one of their top red flags when it comes to your picky eater and we have to agree. If your determined kiddo keeps shrinking the list of foods they will eat, it may be time to tap in your pediatrician for some extra guidance. Understanding why your child is triggered by texture, colors, or tastes, can help your medical team nail down the kind of plan you can then implement at home. We know that our word of the year is repetition, but we encourage to pursue it once the right foundation is in place.
3. Does eating spark persistent anxiety?
There’s a difference between snubbing broccoli because it isn’t a piece of pineapple and becoming anxious when they’re around food or being afraid to go on playdates for food-related reasons. While it may be hard to say out loud what behavior seems more consistent with your little one, doing so can help you and the medical support team around you figure out whether it’s time to invite therapists into the mix.
We know none of these questions are easy to ask yourself let alone answer with your little one in mind, but doing so could be the difference maker between not knowing where the frustrating mealtimes are stemming from and knowing how to better navigate them. Baby steps, yours and theirs will (and can) make a difference.