When picky eating becomes a problem

This article was featured in the Suburban 

For decades we have believed that picky eating is a normal part of development and although most kids grow out of this phase on their own research suggests that about 12% need extra help to get over their picky eating.

Picky eating becomes an issue when parents are unable to feed their kids a variety of diet and textures. This can cause a lot of stress for the parents and the child which can make mealtimes very unpleasant. Parents often end up making separate meals for their picky eaters and worry about their child not getting enough nutrients. When kids are not able to eat like the rest of the family, I see that as a problem.

Kids can limit their diet for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason, the longer a child is severely picky, the longer it will be for her to try new foods. Moderate to severe picky eating can be treated with the right approach. Sequential oral sensory (SOS) approach is an effective way to address problematic feeding behaviours. This is an interdisciplinary approach where the team of professionals looks at the whole child: nutrition, development, sensory oral-motor, behaviour, cognition and environment.

The goal of the SOS approach is to improve the child’s nutritional status and quality of life by adding a variety of foods from all four food groups. The SOS approach focuses on increasing the child’s comfort level by exploring food and learning about food in a fun an interactive way. Playing with food can reduce anxiety about eating. SOS is a no stress approach and requires parent’s participation and involvement. Below are some characteristics of problem feeders to help you determine whether professional guidance n needed to help resolve your child’s picky eating.

Characteristics of problem feeders

·    Eats fewer than 20 foods

·    Refuses to eat foods from certain food groups

·    Refuses to eat foods from entire categories of texture

·    Won’t tolerate new foods on their plate and is not willing to touch or taste the food

·    Cries or throws a tantrum when a new food is offered with a need for sameness and rituals around food and mealtime.

Written by Naureen Hunani, Registered Dietitian, SOS feeding therapist

Naureen Hunani