LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A new study suggests parents should think twice before pressuring “picky” eaters. A recent University of Michigan study shows pressuring kids to eat food they don't like can have a negative effect on parent-child relationships and rarely creates a positive impact on their eating habits. With this new information, how should parents help their “picky” eaters and make sure their kids are getting a balanced, healthy diet?
For mom, Lesley Jones, getting her sons to eat a variety of foods has been a challenge.
“The biggest struggle is getting their fruits and vegetables in,” she said.
Her sons, Keegan and Davin, are what she calls "selective" eaters. Because of that, it has been a constant effort to get them to try new things.
Dr. Tina Maddox, from the UAMS Dietetics Department, said the struggle in the Jones family is all too common for other families.
“All kids go through periods of time where they only want a certain food to eat and that's really very normal,” she said. “But, if it’s something that goes on long-term then that's something we would be concerned about in terms of nutrient deficiency,”
She said that with school starting back up, that deficiency can translate into problems for kids in the classroom.
“It can show up as behavior problems sometimes because the kids are more fidgety in their seats and they don't perform as well on their homework assignments or exams,” she said.
While getting kids to try new things can be a challenge, Dr. Maddox said there are some ways families can make positive changes.
One way parents can get their kids to try new things is by making them part of the grocery shopping process. That way, when they go to the fridge, they will be more likely to choose something they got at the grocery store.
“It might be fun for kids to pick out what fruit and vegetable they want for that week,” she said.
She said that “go big or go home” isn’t the best mantra for trying to get your kids to try new things.
“Don’t overwhelm your child with a plate of all new foods,” she said. “Gradually start adding food one at a time.”
It’s that patient process that has helped the Jones family make positive changes.
“I did not think I would like asparagus but when I had that as a meal one time, I tried it and I like it,” said Keegan.
Lesley Jones said it also just takes a little sacrifice sometimes.
“If we get a dessert afterwards I’ll try something new,” said Davin.
“I’ve always known that’s not the way to entice kids to get them to eat but sometimes you have to try whatever works,” said Lesley.