Parents sometimes believe the myth that children should want to eat healthy meals each and every day. That they should happily eat vegetables, turn down junk food, and beg for fresh fruit. Of course, if you have a young child, you’ll understand that this myth is simply wishful thinking.
Instead of perpetuating this myth, it is much more helpful to examine what real children and their behavior looks like. It’s helpful to take a closer look at the children in your own home and understand that they are not abnormal. In fact, they are surprisingly similar to other children around the world.
Your picky eater is not alone.
All parents want their children to eat well, grow well, and behave well. The trouble comes in when parents begin to feel like they are not doing a good job simply because their child is a picky eater. Here are some striking statistics to assure you that you are not alone…
- A third of parents say that their picky eater could survive on the same three to five foods every single day.
- According to some polls, as many as 75% of parents say that their child is, or has been, a picky eater.
- Adding those that say their child is “sometimes” picky raises that number to almost 85%.
- The typical age span for picky eating is from fifteen months to six years, but it remains common up to about age 10, and can persist for some children up through adolescence and beyond.
- Up to 67% of parents say that vegetables are essentially “off limits” to their little one.
- A quarter of parents find their child’s picky eating habits “beyond frustrating.”
- About 25% of parents report that their child refuses to try a new food when it’s offered.
- Half of all picky eaters won’t eat mixed dishes; they prefer individual foods that don’t touch each other.
Should I worry about my picky eater?
In many cases, the answer is, “No.” Only a very small percentage of young children go beyond normal picky eating habits to the point where it becomes dangerous to their health. There are rare occasions where children have genuine food related issues or have trouble with the physical mechanics of eating, and these cases can lead to a lack of nutrients needed for healthy growth. These children do not have normal growth, lack energy, or display other signs of malnutrition (If you have any concerns about your child’s eating habits, it’s always wise to talk to your health care provider.)
However, most children simply go through a picky eating phase. Despite this selective (and frustrating) style of eating, these children manage to get enough daily nutrition to be healthy and grow like a weed!
It is sanity-saving to balance our attempts to get our children to eat healthy with a realistic understanding of normal child development. For more information and advice, read The No Cry Picky Eater Solution.