Why are children picky eaters? What can parents do about it?


Parents want their children to eat everything they are served but many times children have likes and dislikes and refuse to eat certain foods. In this article we will look at the causes of picky eating and how parents can help encourage their child to eat more foods.

子どもが偏食をする原因は? 親ができる対策法

What causes children to be picky eaters?

What causes children to become picky eaters in the first place? There are many causes of picky eating in children. Please check out some of them below.

They have little experience eating the foods

Babies prefer the sweet taste of sugar (needed for survival) and the “umami” of amino acids (used to build muscles and skin). However, they often try to avoid sour and bitter tastes. This is because the body associates sourness with the taste of rotten food and bitterness with poison so it tries to avoid them.

They dislike the texture and temperature

Some children dislike foods due to their texture (like tomatoes). They also often dislike hard foods because they have to be chewed a lot. Foods that are too cold or too hot are also often disliked.

They don’t like the smell of the food

Some children with a sensitive sense of smell may dislike cheese, natto, milk, or fish because they don’t like the smell.

They have allergies or a tooth decay

It is hard for small children to express their discomfort in words. Therefore, sometimes it may look like they are just being a picky eater but they are actually allergic to the food. Young children may also be reluctant to eat if they have tooth pain when they chew.

What can parents do to encourage their child to be less picky about eating?

There are many reasons for picky eating in children. However, as a parent, if your child is a picky eater, you may worry that he or she will become a picky eater in the future, ……, or that he or she may become undernourished. Except for allergies, what can be done to improve picky eating in children? Here are some tips parents can try.

Prepare the food so it is an age-appropriate softness and size

In infancy, a main cause of picky eating is the hardness and size of the food. So, parents should prepare the food so it is soft enough and is an easy size to chew and swallow. Thickening the food to make it easier to eat is often effective. Parents should pay attention to what their child eats and be creative when preparing meals.

Use seasonings that your child likes

Using seasonings (like ketchup, soy sauce or mayonnaise) that your child likes is one way to encourage them to try new foods. Parents should stay away from sour and bitter flavors. Many children like cooked tomatoes but not raw tomatoes because the acidity disappears and they become sweeter when they are cooked.

Try cooking and gardening with your child

Cooking with your child or taking them to a farm where they can grow or harvest their own vegetables is one way to expose your child to new foods and help make them less picky. Cooking and gardening are fun activities to enjoy as a family and will also spark an interest in food. Make sure to praise your child for helping out with the activities.

There are many cases where children become less picky about food after eating with their friends in a school environment. Attending a preschool class that serves snacks and lunch is a great way for your child to experience eating in a group. Playing with their friends will also make your child hungry and may make him/her interested in more foods.

Young children are often picky eaters due to their lack of experience in eating. Depending on the degree of picky eating, it may be tiring for parents, but don’t be too hard on yourself and start by encouraging small improvements.