First let me preface this by saying that I base my practice on scientific evidence. But the scientific evidence only goes so far. There’s also experience. Over the last 6 years I’ve helped hundreds of families. In doing so I’ve learned a thing or two that you can’t find in the scientific literature. Consider this an opinion piece. Observations that I’ve made in the 6 years that I’ve made helping families with picky eaters my life. Is picky eating on the rise?
Yes. But, it doesn’t have to be.
Let me explain.
First, I do think that picky eating is on the rise. I don’t think it’s because kids have changed. I think it’s because our parenting around food has changed.
I’ve noticed a theme running through the families whom I’ve worked with. In most cases at least one of the parents tells me about strong, negative memories of when they were a child and they were forced to eat foods that they hated. Perhaps sitting at the table for hours because they weren’t allowed to leave the table until they had “cleaned their plate”. These situations were so awful for these folks that they vowed never to make their kids have to do this.
Thankfully they’ve stuck to their vow and not forced their kids to eat foods they hate or “clean their plates”. Unfortunately they’ve swung the parenting style too far to the other extreme and they have no boundaries for their kids with food.
The result is that when kids hit the natural developmental stage where they become suspicious of foods and want to eat only the same 5 things, these parents only serve their kids those 5 things. And, when their toddler looks at what you’ve made them for dinner, rejects it and demands something else, they jump up and make it. Only for it to be rejected too.
What I’ve seen is that “protecting” kids from ever seeing a new food (i.e only serving them their favourite foods) only causes kids to regress further, so that they’re eating fewer and fewer foods. In other words, this parenting reaction actually fuels picky eating.
Instead of choosing one extreme or the other, I recommend choosing a middle road. One where you provide the structure and boundaries and kids get to express themselves and have control too. This is the method that I teach in these weekly posts, my workshops, online seminars and e-book. And you know what? There’s scientific evidence behind the strategies that I use (and 6 years of experience too).