Picky Eating: A Toddler's Approach to Mealtime

Mary Cathey; Nan Gaylord

Pediatr Nurs. 2004;30(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Research indicates that three primary components play a role in the picky eating phenomenon: development, personal preferences, and the family. Picky eating is an aspect of child development. Children will develop their own preferences when given the appropriate tools to do so. Parents are their children's greatest role models. An understanding of these concepts can help guide the primary care provider in making appropriate recommendations to parents to improve their toddlers' eating behaviors.

The toddler years represent a challenging time characterized by rapid development that can be exciting, as well as frustrating. Though the toddler is beginning to establish his or her independence, he or she is still reliant upon a caregiver to provide for all basic needs. This may present a bit of a problem if the toddler's desires differ from those of the caregiver. This behavior is perhaps most evident in the development of eating behaviors in young children. In the interest of offering their children the best start possible, parents of toddlers will come to their primary care providers searching for answers and recommendations to a myriad of concerns regarding dietary intake. Many parents are well aware of the need to establish healthy dietary habits early in life, as well as, the link between poor nutrition and adverse health conditions (Fisher & Birch, 1995). Concerns peak when the child demonstrates an unwillingness to try novel or unfamiliar foods, termed food neophobia (Carruth & Skinner, 2000). We, as primary care providers, must be prepared to offer sound advice and solid recommendations to these parents as they struggle to provide their children with the tools necessary to become healthy, happy adults.

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