What parent hasn't dealt with a picky eater?
Researchers suggest an extreme aversion to certain foods could signal something more.
The doctors at Brain Balance -- a holistic, drug-free approach to addressing behavioral, social, or learning difficulties -- were looking for trends among kids who have ADHD, Autism and Dyslexia, and found those kids don't have properly developed senses of smell and taste. They say a child’s reaction to certain foods could help as warning signs for parents that they’re dealing with a bigger medical issue.
The doctors have three things to watch for:
1. Your child only eats similarly textured foods. Brain balance says some conditions can't handle certain textures so they obsess over smooth foods like yogurt or pizza or they only want crunchy foods.
2. Your child only wants bland food. Sensory overload is a problem for the brain so spicy foods can be too much to process. Their sense of smell is also often affected leading to bland picks and could really stand out when compared to other children in the family.
3. Kids have extreme anxiety when it comes to trying new foods, possibly to the point of throwing up. Doctors say kids with an imbalance know a bad reaction is coming and often have a very physical reaction.
“Almost acts like they're gonna die if they eat something... it's a cue that there's actually a very primitive, very basic reaction in their brain that just isn't turning off and maturing like it should,” said Brain Balance co-founder Dr. Robert Melillo.
He says this is not to say every kid who only wants pizza has a problem -- he’s talking about extreme food reactions.
However, Dr. Melillo also offers three ways to address picky eating that any parent can put to use:
1. Make cooking interactive. Dr. Melillo advises parents let the kids help so cooking is seen as something fun and not a chore. Teach them how to stir or chop if they're old enough.
2. Let the kids be artistic with their food. Don't be afraid to get messy. Cut veggies and sandwiches into shapes.
3. Instead of scolding kids for not trying something new try to catch them being good and celebrate when they do show interest in something new. Take off the pressure of trying different foods.
“Reward the effort, not necessarily the result. If they try it but spit it out say, 'Hey, that's great you tried it, you put it in your mouth.' That's a big deal,” said Dr. Melillo.
If your child strongly resists certain foods Brain Balance has a free online assessment, so you can fill it out or reach out for further nutritional counseling here.