I was completely shocked and horrified when I came across an article recently in BBC News, stating some parents are attributing their children's dietary foibles to an eating disorder, rather than simply bad behavior.

In the interview, Dr Su Laurent discusses how she spends a significant amount of her clinical time seeing healthy young children whose parents are convinced their child has something seriously wrong with them.

Some parents believe their child has an inability to swallow solids, others think their child will fade away unless offered the few foods they like, while other parents say their child eats nothing, despite the fact they are consuming a packet of Wotsits in front of the good doctor's eyes!

The fact of the matter is, it's much easier for many parents to believe there is something medically wrong with their child, than that they have a behavioural problem. But in truth, from a very young age children have an amazing ability to get what they want, and food is just one of the things they use to do that.

Obviously this cannot be said for all children, and some do genuinely have a medical concern.

But, sadly many parents struggle through mealtimes, sitting for what feels like hours waiting for meals to be finished, or resorting to force-feeding as a result of extreme frustration. Others cave in to the child's demands, and the result is a very limited, unhealthy diet. Not ideal scenarios by any stretch of the imagination!

Should you be concerned about your picky eater?

It appears to be all a matter of interpretation - a study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association found that although the percentage of children identified as being picky eaters by their caregivers was high, both picky and non picky eaters met, or indeed exceeded, the current age-appropriate energy and dietary recommendations.

Here are 10 ways to deal with your picky eater?

  1. Focus on making meals and snacks healthy and nutritious, rather than offering processed junk foods.
  2. When introducing new foods (as many as 8 to 15 tasting opportunitiesmay be required before the food is accepted), offer just one or two at a time, and present them in small quantities, giving second helpings if requested.
  3. Make 'taking a bite of everything on my plate' or 'sitting at the table until I'm finished' categories in your child's reward scheme.
  4. Don't punish your child for refusing to try new foods.
  5. Get your child involved in choosing and preparing food (if age appropriate).
  6. Try to make eating at the table a fun family time, rather than a stressful time.
  7. If they refuse to eat main meals, resist temptation to give unhealthy snacks before the next meal, and try to avoid keeping unhealthy snacks in the home. This way when they do eventually get hungry the only option will be a healthy snack.
  8. Check your attitude to food - your child may pick up on any negativity you have towards food and eating.
  9. Stop any force-feeding.
  10. Experiment with different methods and styles, for example many children don't like cooked vegetables, but may eat raw vegetables served with a tasty dip.

Remember, if your child refuses to eat a carrot it doesn't mean they have an eating disorder...the last thing our children need are more labels!

Do you think toddlers and their food-fads are indulged too much? How should fussy eaters be dealt with in your opinion?