Your Child's Growth and Development: Is Picky Eating Getting in the Way?

Picky Eating Impacts Childrens Immune Health Growth and Development

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A new survey found picky eating is more common than you might think. But it doesn't have to hold your child back.

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APR. 23, 2021   4 MIN. READ

As a parent, it's natural to be concerned about your child's growth and development. But lately, many parents have had another pressing issue on their minds. According to a recent International Food Information Council (IFIC) report on children's nutrition, immune health is parents' second-largest nutritional concern, right behind growth and development. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related shifts in social behaviors.

Of course, a healthy diet can help. Yet most parents surveyed said that picky eating is the biggest obstacle to providing the nutritious foods kids need to thrive. 

Parents Face Common Challenges

If picky eating is an issue in your home, you're not alone. According to the IFIC report, more than 40 percent of parents surveyed wish their child was willing to try new foods. And nearly half feel their child is pickier than other kids of the same age.

The biggest challenge parents associated with picky eating was getting children to eat vegetables (especially dark greens). Parents also noted that they struggle to convince their kids to eat other healthy foods like beans, peas and seafood.

At the same time, the cost of these foods was also top of mind. Roughly one in three parents who took part in the survey cited the price of healthy food as a leading obstacle to putting a nutritious meal on the table.

Concerns About Added Sweets

In addition to wishing their children would eat more nutritious foods, the IFIC report found that many parents would also like their kids to consume fewer unhealthy foods, especially sweets. And with good reason. Nine in ten parents reported their children eat sweets at least once daily, providing lots of empty calories.

No wonder parents like to know what goes into their family's food. More than half that responded to the survey said they regularly read food labels such as the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredients list.

A Place for Supplements & Multivitamins

On the upside, three out of four parents surveyed as part of the IFIC report noted that they believe their child's diet adequately supports the child’s immune health, growth and development.

Yet many kids' diets are far from perfect. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, 36 percent of children consume fast food daily, and only three-quarters eat fruit on a given day. Perhaps that's why 77 percent of parents in the IFIC survey reported giving their child a supplement, such as a multivitamin, to fill nutrition gaps.

Dietary Recommendations for Children

If you're not always sure what your child should (or shouldn't) eat for optimal health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a great place to start. This expert report sums up everything children (and adults) need for a balanced, nutritious diet.

Especially for kids, that means plenty of:

  • Colorful vegetables such as green broccoli, red tomatoes, orange carrots, purple eggplant, yellow squash, black beans and white cauliflower.

  • Fruit that's fresh, frozen, or canned (ideally in its whole form without added sugars).

  • Grains like bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal and ready-to-eat cereal (half should be whole grains).

  • Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese or fortified soy beverages and yogurt.

  • Lean protein such as lean beef, skinless chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and nut butters.

  • Healthy fats from vegetable oils, avocados, and fatty fish.

Because children's rapidly growing bodies require lots of nutrition, there isn't much room for:

  • Sweets: such as sugary drinks like pop, cookies, candy, and ice cream. Ideally, added sugars should provide no more than 10 percent of a child's daily calories.

  • Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease later in life. Saturated fat is found in whole and 2 percent milk, butter, cream, full-fat cheese, coconut oil, hamburgers, and fatty cuts of meat. Try to limit it to 10 percent of calories or less.

  • Sodium can raise blood pressure. Even though sodium comes from salt, most of the sodium in kids' diets is from processed foods, fast food, and takeout — not the saltshaker. Like adults, children should consume a maximum of 2,300 milligrams per day.

Focusing on a healthy diet that can support your child's immune health, growth and development is more important than ever. If picky eating is preventing your child from consuming a balanced diet, an oral nutrition supplement like PediaSure® may help. Made with 25 vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and 7 grams of high-quality protein per serving, it's the No. 1 brand recommended by pediatricians.

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