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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Toddler refusing food

Feeding a Picky Eater? Don’t Worry Too Much!

Parents worry about their children. Believe me, raising 3 kids has made this clear! I also know that fretting about what and how much our kids eat will backfire. Small children can control very little of what happens to them. But there is one thing they can control – whether they eat the food we offer them. So when we pressure them to eat, they’ll often push back.

We ask them to have another bite, try the broccoli, or finish their plates – and what happens? They dig in their heels and close their mouths! The pediatric nutritionist Ellyn Satter states this dynamic well:

Trying to get a child to eat more than she wants makes her eat less. Trying to get her to eat less than she wants makes her eat more. Trying to get her to eat certain foods makes her avoid them.

You try not to let them know you’re worried. But kids feel our worry even when it’s “hidden.”

In fact, even very young children are excellent at detecting our true emotions. My first baby cried lots. He cried morning, noon, and night. He cried outdoors and inside. He cried in my arms or his dad’s. It was exhausting! Once at a large family gathering he was fussing, and a sweet sister-in-law offered to hold him. I watched as he settled from a full scream to a calm sleep within moments in her arms. Even at that age, he sensed her calm and lack of worry and was soothed!

So rather than worry, or pressure your child to eat, talk with your pediatrician. Ask if they’re concerned about your child’s weight and nutrition. Their answer may be very reassuring!

If you’re concerned about your child being a picky eater, read my nutritional soundbites – and try to let go of your worry. Consider giving your child a daily multivitamin so all their nutritional bases are covered, even if they don’t seem to eat much. And feel reassured that for most children, this is just a phase they pass through pretty quickly!

Worrying will not help. Erma Bombeck had wisdom for us on this issue:

Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.

Find more resources for parents:
My Doctor Online:
Eat Well, Be Active, Live Better

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