Finding food that your child loves and will eat without argument is like hitting the jackpot for so many parents. Having a picky eater can mean spending endless hours in the kitchen, trying to find something...anything...that your child will eat. Finding that sweet spot of foods your kids actually enjoy and is relatively good for them is amazing until they decide they no longer like that food. That moment normally comes right after a trip to the grocery store where you stocked up, too.
Having your child suddenly change their mind and decide that the food that was their all-time favorite last week is now something they won't even touch this week is frustrating, so why do they do it? Psychologist C. Keith Conners explained in his book, Feeding the Brain: How Foods Affect Children that there is a relationship between a child's development and what they eat, but when your child begins to refuse eating something they previously enjoyed doesn't mean there's cause for alarm.
Children have little control over many things in their lives, but what they eat is one thing they can typically control. Conners wrote that when children are going through periods of upheaval or when there is a change — such as a move or a new school — sometimes they will exercise the little control they have over their diet.
Registered dietician Chrissy Carroll also told Romper that sometimes kids are simply smarter than we give them credit for. "Let’s say your child was just introduced to foods that they would naturally have a high affinity for — our taste buds are naturally drawn to sweet foods, so perhaps your little one just started eating cookies," Carroll said. "It’s completely normal that they might stop eating a food they previously 'loved' in favor of hoping they’ll get the new food at each meal."
Carroll also noted that there can be a power play when it comes to kids refusing to eat something they previously loved, caused by anxiety over mealtime. "If a parent is constantly pressuring a child to eat or making the mealtime experience unpleasant, it can become a power struggle. In this case, it’s not that the child dislikes the food they used to love, but are trying to exert their own power in the mealtime battle."
While it can be frustrating to try to keep up with your child's ever-changing palate, Carroll says it's really nothing to be worried about. "Though it can be tough, try not to get frustrated or upset by your child’s eating habits. If they’re growing well, you’re doing your job!"
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