Carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan, a new study, which followed 317 mother-and-child pairs over a four-year period, has come to the conclusion that the belief that kids ‘grow out’ of being picky eaters may not actually be true. The mothers were asked to report on their children's eating habits and their own behaviors and attitudes about feeding their kids when the children were aged four, five, six, eight and nine.
The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed that the children with high levels of picky eating tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI), whereas low levels of picky eating were linked with higher BMIs. However, the researchers add that although the picky eaters had a lower BMI, most were still in the healthy BMI range and not classed underweight. In addition, fussier eaters may also be less likely to be overweight or obese.
The study also revealed that picky eaters were more likely to have parents who pressured them to eat, or who restricted certain foods. The finding is in line with previous research that has found that trying to pressure kids into eating foods they don't like can actually make it less likely that they eat a varied, healthy balance of foods later in life.
“We found that children who were pickier had mothers who reported more restriction of unhealthy foods and sweets,” says senior author Megan Pesch, MD says. “These mothers of picky eaters may be trying to shape their children's preferences for more palatable and selective diets to be more healthful. But it may not always have the desired effect.”
The researchers also found that children's picky eating habits didn't really change from preschool, when children are ages three to four, to school-age, when they're ages five to six, which suggests that if parents want to try to expand their children's diets, before preschool is the time to do it.
“Picky eating is common during childhood and parents often hear that their children will eventually ‘grow out of it’. But that's not always the case,” says senior author Megan Pesch, MD. “We still want parents to encourage varied diets at young ages, but our study suggests that they can take a less controlling approach,” Pesch adds. That being said “we need more research to better understand how children's limited food choices impact healthy weight gain and growth long term.”
Featured image: Istock.com