Is your child a picky eater? Most kids do go through phases of being particular about what they eat at some point in their lives. But what if this pickiness persists? Is it a behavior issue or a physiological problem? If you’re in a power struggle with picky eating, you’re not alone. Read on to see how we may be able to help!
What Makes a Typical ‘Picky’ Eater?
Does your child prefer mac and cheese, pizza or chicken nuggets? What child doesn’t? We love those foods, too. But what happens when you try to introduce new foods? There’s frustration around the dinner table or at snack time.
Typical picky eating may look like:
- Somewhat restricted food variety (30+ foods the child is willing to eat)
- Stops eating their favorite foods but will try that food again at another time
- Attempts to try new and unfamiliar foods (sometimes begrudgingly)
- Eats with the family but may eat different foods in part
How to Help a Typical Picky Eater
If you think your child is a picky eater, there are things you can do to help him or her develop healthier eating habits. Try these tips to help your child become a healthy eater:
Start by trying to understand why your child is choosing to eat one type of food over another. It could be because he or she likes the taste better, feels safer eating something known, or simply wants to avoid having to make a decision.
Be patient with your child. You will need to take time to teach him or her how to enjoy different types of foods. Try to cut the food into fun shapes or try different foods at irregular times – such as breakfast for dinner!
Make sure your child gets enough nutrients from his or her meals. This means making sure your child eats fruits and veggies every day. This can be hard, but check out ways veggies can be hidden in other foods!
Don’t force your child to eat. Give him or her choices, then let the child decide which one he or she wants.
Try to find healthy alternatives to fast food to encourage healthy eating. For example, instead of ordering fries, ask for baked potatoes. Instead of ordering burgers, order grilled chicken sandwiches.
Try to give your child variety in his or her diet so there’s no time for boredom. Mix up his or her meals each week, and don’t forget snacks!
What Is ‘Atypical’ Picky Eating?
So, can picky eating be extreme? As with anything, yes. Here are some signs of “atypical” picky eating:
- Extreme food preferences (fewer than 20 foods they will eat)
- Refusal to eat a variety of foods and aversion to food textures (even after repeated attempts)
- Meltdowns at the introduction of new foods
- Gagging, difficulty chewing, problems swallowing new foods
If your child is struggling with gagging, problems swallowing new foods, aversion to food textures and problems chewing, that “pickiness” may not be that the child prefers one food over the other – your child may have a physiological problem such as a tongue-tie preventing him or her from eating different foods and textures and causing other issues.
What Is a Tongue Tie?
Tongue ties are small bands of tissue that connect the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. They occur naturally during birth. In most cases, they disappear on their own within two years. However, if they remain longer than this, they can cause problems when it comes to feeding. A baby who has a tongue tie may gag while attempting to swallow solid foods. He or she may also have trouble chewing. If left untreated, this condition can lead to:
- Poor oral motor skills (such as poor coordination between jaw and tongue muscles)
- Restricted jaw growth
- Difficulty learning to chew and swallow properly
- Problems with speech development
- Difficulties with nutrition
- Swallowing difficulties
- Frequent ear infections
- Food aversions and picky eating
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, coupled with picky eating, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor may recommend a procedure known as a frenectomy to cut the tongue tie.
After Tongue Tie Treatment – Myofunctional Therapy
Frenectomies are quick procedures that are often done with a laser to minimize discomfort during and after the procedure. After the procedure, your child may also require myofunctional therapy, a type of treatment designed to help improve the function of the tongue and jaw. It involves exercises that strengthen the tongue and jaw muscles to allow proper movement. These exercises are usually performed by a therapist under the supervision of your dentist or pediatrician. The goal is to prevent future problems related to the tongue tie.
The Benefits of Myofunctional Therapy
Myofunctional therapy is beneficial for children who have a tongue tie because it helps improve the movement of the tongue and jaws. This allows your child to better control how much food goes into his or her mouth and reduces choking risks. It also improves the ability to chew and swallow foods.
Can Myofunctional Therapy Help ‘Picky’ Eaters?
Yes! Studies show that children who receive myofunctional therapy are more likely to try a variety of new foods and enjoy eating.
Is your child a picky eater? We’d love to talk.