Taming The Picky Eater

By Dr. Bryant Harris

Often times after the rapid growth during infancy, the toddler will emerge as a "picky eater". It should be noted that it is normal for growth rate and appetite to slow down as a child heads into the toddler stage. however, toddlers will also begin to develop food preferences. For those children with poor digestive health and/or sensory struggles, this can be a big mountain to climb.

Digestive Health

If you have ever experienced constipation, nausea, heartburn, anxiety or a stomach bug, then you understand what it feels like to not want to eat.

Many children, especially those with neurodevelopmental challenges, are known to have poor digestive health. However, as a child, they may not be able to express their discomfort. In fact, these sensations may not even register as feelings in those children with sensory processing disorders.

One key sensory system is called the "interoceptive" system.This system gives the brain feedback as to what is happening with our internal organs. If there is a "traffic jam" from our organs to our brain, a child may not register such things as: hunger, the need for peristalsis or other vital organ function. Or, the organs may be "hyper" sensitive and bombard the brain with too many signals, creating an anxiety type of feeling.

Sensory Processing Dysregulation

Children with poor "proprioceptive" processing may prefer foods that are chewy or crunchy as they are seeking proprioceptive input from the joints of the jaw and muscles used for chewing.

Other children may be hypersensitive to proprioceptive input and fatigue quickly when chewing so they might prefer soft foods that are easier to eat (less effort).

Some children may have tactile defensive behaviors and only prefer smooth foods or they are tactile seeking and prefer foods with a lot of texture.

Some children are hypersensitive to smells. Since smell is linked to taste, children with aversions to certain smells may be more inclined not to try certain foods.Looking for these patterns can help parents better understand potential sensory-motor challenges their child may have.

Tethered Oral Restrictions

Children with tongue ties that were never addressed may fatigue easily and/or have trouble with chewing.

Unfortunately, these restrictions often go overlooked or under-appreciated in their role of broad potential health consequences.

Visual Appeal

The color of food, the presentation of food and even food packaging can play a role in making strides with the picky eater.

Making meals that are colorful can often gain you some group in helping your child venture out of their comfort zone.

Using Different Fruits and Vegetables To Make Shapes/Pictures Is A Good Place To Start

Hidden Treasures

It is very easy to "hide" food in food!Simply puree vegetables and put in meat dishes, sauces, soups, casseroles, smoothies, and even popsicles.

NeuroSpinal Chiropractic Care

NeuroSpinal Chiropractic Care helps the body and brain to have better communication pathways.This, in turn, will help with better sensory organization in the brain as well as better digestive health.When the body is in balance, a child will be less defensive to their environment and more likely to try new things - including foods.

Success Strategies

  • Let your child play with different foods
  • Decrease sensory defensiveness
  • Use colored containers
  • Be a detective (Textures; Colors; Packaging, etc...)
  • Batch cook & freeze meals
  • Stick to a routine
  • Do not bargain with them or bribe them with rewards
  • Be patient - takes an average of 50 exposure to a food before a child will eat it
  • Make it fun - be creative!
  • Invite the child to participate in grocery shopping and preparing meals
  • Minimize distractions - turn off the TV and other media devices
  • Make it fun family experience!
  • Add one healthy food at a time or one healthy meal at a time
  • Get Your Child Checked By A NeuroStructural Chiropractor!