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Heres why you should take a closer look at your childs picky eating
Its pretty common for children not to like certain foods. Maybe they avoid broccoli, shuffle corn around their plates or beg you for pizza. - photo by Shelby Slade
Its pretty common for children not to like certain foods. Maybe they avoid broccoli, shuffle corn around their plates or beg you for pizza.

However, picky eating could be a sign of impending mental health issues, according to a new study.

Researchers at Duke Medical Center say extremely picky eaters are twice as likely to be depressed and seven times as likely to have social anxiety, Richard Harris reported for NPR.

This doesnt just apply to children who really dont like certain foods, but also the truly selective eaters who make meals a battleground or require different meals than the rest of the family. This is a relatively narrow group of children only about 3 percent met the criteria.

Nancy Zucker, lead author of the study, said this extreme pickiness about food shows extra sensitivity to things that could hint at greater mental and emotional issues, Rachel Rabkin Peachman reported for The New York Times.

Their sensory experience is more intense in the areas of taste, texture and visual cues. And their internal experience may be more intense, so they have stronger feelings, Zucker said. Theyre sensitive kids who may be anxious or a little depressed, so cutting up fruits into funny shapes is not going to do the trick for these kids.

Zucker told Peachman the studys findings should change how parents think about food, from something required for life to a sign of your childs personality.

How kids behave around food relates to how they interact with the world in general, Zucker said. It doesnt surprise me that some kids who are really tentative around food might be really tentative in life.

If families have picky eaters, there are some ways to combat it and help children grow out of it, Mari-Jane Williams wrote for The Washington Post.

For regular picky eaters, exposure to new foods and seeing good examples of people trying these things can be a way to ease them into new habits. Just dont make a big deal about it, Liz Weiss, who owns Meal Makeover Moms, warned.

It takes time to learn to ride a bike, to potty train, to learn how to read, Weiss said. Teaching your kid to appreciate new flavors takes a long time too. You just have to go with it and look at it as a skill that kids need to acquire.

While food may be a touchy subject for parents and their children, it shouldnt get in the way of family dinner. Rather, make snacktime when you fight food battles and dinner a time to relax together, Peachman said.

Mealtimes are such a sacred space for families to share time together, to eat together and to share their day, Zucker said. It should be a peaceful and calm time.
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