Parents pressuring picky eaters can be harmful, study finds

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new study suggests parents should think twice before pressuring picky eaters.

The recent University of Michigan study shows pressuring kids to eat food they don’t like may not be the right idea. 

UM’s Human Growth and Development group found “pressuring kids to eat food they don’t like…isn’t linked to the behavior or their weight changing,” but it can cause tension during meal-time.

This type of behavior also was noted to put a strain on the parent-child relationship. 

Physician and researcher Julie Lumeng said: 

“In a nutshell, we found that over a year of life in toddlerhood, weight remained stable on the growth chart whether they were picky eaters or not. The kids’ picky eating also was not very changeable. It stayed the same whether parents pressured their picky eaters or not… As a parent, if you pressure, you need to make sure you’re doing it in a way that’s good for the relationship with your child.”

Parents should also be mindful when using terms like ‘picky’.

According to appetite researchers, these words can carry a negative connotation,

They suggest using phrases like ‘choosey’ and ‘selective’ to help the child feel at ease and not insecure about their preferences. 

UM researchers said picky eating isn’t something parents should worry too much about.

Research showed it is rarely associated with nutrient deficiencies or poor growth, so it’s not a “serious behavior flaw that parents should expend lots of energy to eliminate.”

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