STARK COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - The Brain Balance Achievement Center, a wholistic, drug-free approach to behavioral, social or learning difficulties, believes there are three picky eating warning signs that could mean a child is more than just particular about what they eat.
1. Your child only eats similarly textured foods.
They said children with brain imbalances (which include sensory processing problems, high functioning autism, dyslexia and other spectrum disorders) aren't able to handle highly-textured foods. Instead they only eat smooth ones, like chicken nuggets or pizza.
2. Your child only eats bland foods.
Similarly, foods with too many flavor profiles or ones that are too spicy, can lead to an unpleasant sensory overload for kids, leading them to avoid them.
3. Your child has extreme anxiety when faced with a new food.
Kids with sensory processing difficulties often worry about having a bad sensory experience, and extreme cases may vomit when forced to eat a new food.
1. Let kids be artistic with food.
Let your child cut or arrange veggie, fruits, or sandwiches into different shapes to link food with fun.
2. Make cooking interactive
By letting your help you mix, chop and stir while you cook, you can turn food into an activity instead of a chore.
3. Catch your child being good.
Instead of scolding your child for not eating new foods, they suggest motivating them with positive reinforcement when they show interest in new foods.
"I tried it" stickers are often used in preschools for this reason. Steps toward progress, like touching, even licking the food, merits praise, according to the Center.
But how picky must they be for it to be a problem?
Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a Pediatric Neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children's hospital, said if your child eats more than 10 foods, they're still in the range of normal. And you can include several varieties/flavors of the same food as different options, he said.
"If the child will only eat three things, and they're all white, then that child is a very picky eater," Wiznitzer said, for example.
Parents shouldn't give up after one attempt, he urged. Those kids with underlying issues may have to be exposed to a new food up to 10 times before you can really say they won't eat it.
He believes there are reasons, other than a brain imbalance, that may be the root cause of a child's picky eating.
"There are kids that are very selective but many times I have found the reason they're selective is because they've got some underlying anxiety or anxiety type behaviors that are there, so they're very cautious or fearful of trying new things," he said.
He also said preschool and early school age is when kids naturally become selective in their eating, limiting their diet, then gradually expand it.
If you have concerns about your child's eating habits, and potential behavioral issues, Wiznitzer suggests first consulting with your pediatrician. If their picky eating is determined to be outside the normal range, he recommends seeking out testing or investigating to determine the root cause.