The Picky Eater: What’s a Parent To Do?

Premier Health Now
French

Do you have a picky eater in your family? If so, how worried should you be about his health? And what can you do about it?

Questions like these may be roiling in your parental brain, especially if you saw the recent news about a teen in England who has permanently lost his eyesight, apparently due to low levels of vitamin B12 and other nutrients, resulting from his limited diet of french fries, Pringles potato chips, and white bread.

“This kid’s pickiness was pretty extreme,” Joseph Allen, MD, a family physician with Premier Health Family Care of Vandalia told Premier Health Now. “I don’t know that I’ll ever see (a patient with malnutrition this extreme) in my career. I hope I don’t.”

But he says, “I’ve seen kids who have had other bad medical outcomes due to their diet.”Examples, which can be treated, include:

Dr. Allen adds, “If they’re not eating a balanced diet, and they’re overeating carbohydrates, children can put on weight. And this can lead to knee and hip injuries.”

What To Do With a Finicky Eater?

Know you’re not alone. “It’s almost universal that every parent, especially of a first child, comes in with concerns about the diet, like ‘my kid will only eat chicken tenders,’” says Dr. Allen.

“You can’t force them to eat some things, but you can provide better options for them – and not provide the option that they’re seeking.”

From his experience as a parent, he says, “Eventually they’ll be hungry enough that they’ll eat what you offer them. So, increase their palate and maybe they’ll like new foods you put in front of them. They just don’t know it yet.”

He adds, “It’s difficult to see the kid crying and you say, ‘You can have this or nothing,’ and they choose nothing. And an hour later they’re pretty darn hungry. It’s difficult, but if you can do that and follow through with it, it really does help the child.”

And, parents, Dr. Allen advises setting a good example. “You need to eat a balanced diet as well. If all you eat is chicken tenders, why would the kid eat anything different?”