May 29, 2013 | Home >Picky Eaters > Toddlers >5 Unfounded Fears of Feeding Children (And When Parents Really Need to Worry)
5 Unfounded Fears of Feeding Children (And When Parents Really Need to Worry)
May 29, 2013 | Home >Picky Eaters > Toddlers >5 Unfounded Fears of Feeding Children (And When Parents Really Need to Worry)

5 Unfounded Fears of Feeding Children (And When Parents Really Need to Worry)

My husband laughs at me when I have to start a sentence with, “So… I have this friend that I know in real life…”  lol, but Maryann Jacobson, Registered Dietitian and author of the fabulous blog, Raise Healthy Eaters, is someone I know in real life!  And she is as lovely as you can imagine.  Now, Maryann has just co-authored a book titled Fearless Feeding, that she’s offered to one of Super Healthy Kids Readers as a giveaway.   (see the end for details!)  This is a guest post from the expert herself, Maryann!


From the day children come into the world, uncertainty about nutrition can consume even the most put-together new parent.  Are they getting enough?  Are they are eating too much?  This fear only intensifies over time as children turn picky, don’t put the cookies down or eat in a way that makes parents uncomfortable.

As a family nutrition expert, I have found that parents often worry about the wrong things due to a lack of preparation and support with feeding.  Straight from my new book, Fearless Feeding, I’m listing the 5 things parents can take of their “worry list” along with red flags that indicate that there might actually be a problem.

1) My Kid is a Picky Eater! Becoming more selective with food choices is actually a normal part of a child’s development, peaking between the ages to 2 and 6.  Growth slows at this time, decreasing appetites of little ones.  There is no need to worry if growth is fine and a child eats from most food groups.  It is also normal for young children to skip a meal here and there, as eating is erratic during this stage.

When to worry: Signs that your child is a problem feeder are eating less than 20 foods, frequent gagging, poor growth and tantrums around new food. Consult your pediatrician if this happens.

2) Obesity Runs in My Family: The childhood obesity epidemic has many parents fearful when obesity runs in their family.  Although there is a genetic component to excess weight, genes have not changed much since obesity has become an issue.  That means that while some people are more susceptible to weight issues, what and how children are fed, regular physical activity and good sleep are the most important factors.

When to worry: A child who sneaks food, binge eats or has accelerated growth (i.e., jumping 2 percentile lines on the growth chart), may be problematic.  If these problems occur see a pediatric dietitian that addresses both what and how children are fed.

3) My Child Doesn’t Eat Vegetables:  Studies show that about 70% of young children are more apt to taste bitter compounds in veggies, which is why vegetables are often shunned.  The good news is that children don’t have to eat lots of vegetables to meet their nutritional needs. A varied fruit intake can make up for a low veggie intake until little one’s taste buds come around (keep offering!).

When to worry: Children who skip whole food groups like protein (nuts/nut butters/beans/lean meat), fruits and vegetables, dairy, grains or healthy fats may be missing out on key nutrients and may benefit from supplementation.  If you are concerned, see a pediatric dietitian or Fearless Feeding for trouble shooting your child’s nutritional needs at each stage.

4) My Child Thinks She is Fat/Skinny/Looks Funny: Most parents are surprised when their child starts to comment on her body size and shape.  Yet body image concerns are normal during the school-age years when children begin to compare their bodies to friends and unrealistic media images.  Most kids just need to be reminded that they are normal and to value the body they have.

When to worry: A child who has significant changes in weight or eating habits, skips meals, follows extreme diets or partakes in excessive exercise should get help ASAP as these are risk factors for an eating disorder.

5) Everyone’s Giving My Child Junk Food: Many parents get frustrated with outside influences, including food from grandmas or at school or birthday parties.  Yet research shows a child’s most important food environment is the home, with parents being vital “food role models.”  In fact, research by Brian Wansink shows that the nutritional gatekeeper of the home (the person who buys and prepares food) influences 72% of what the family eats.

When to worry: If your child is fed by someone else a majority of the time, make sure the person understands and shares your same values about food and feeding.

It’s all too easy for normal feeding challenges to become long-term problems when parents don’t have the right information, tools and strategies at their disposal.

What worries you most about feeding your child?

BOOK GIVEAWAY- Closed- Congratulations to Shannon B!!

Maryann and Jill’s new book, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, not only helps parents anticipate feeding challenges, but guides them on how to handle them successfully.  For a chance to win a copy of her book, answer the above question (what worries you most about feeding your child?) in the comments.

written by
Amy Roskelley

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Kirsten says:

What worries me the most about feeding my child is if she is getting the correct nutrition she needs.

Erica Lewis says:

What worries me most is that what I feed my boys today will set the foundation for how they will feed themselves tomorrow and I afraid to get it wrong! I am also concerned about how nutrition will effect her health.

Eileen Fernandez says:

What worries me the most is that my kids will grow to not appreciate all the wonderful healthy and delicious food options. Aside from the health implications, I wouldn’t want them to be that adult that eats junk simply because he/she didn’t appreciate the healthy meals. I know I can do so much more, but it’s a hard battle at times.

Monica Nuss says:

they don’t eat foods that will keep them healthy so they don’t have lifelong medical problems

paula baker says:

My 2 year old has always been small. I’m worried his spuratic eating habits will further delay his growth and cause health problems down the road.

Debra Roberts says:

My boys both have Asperger’s. One is a severely picky eater and the other one doesn’t eat vegetables and most fruits. I am very worried about their health. I am desperate for some ideas to help them expand their horizons!

Cairn says:

What worries me most is trying to set a good example that they will be able to follow the rest of their life and still balancing some of the not so good stuff for a once in awhile treat.

Billie Spartalis says:

What worries me most? I have to say that because my son is very picky with both fruits and veggies, I worry that he will continue to eat this way into his adolescence and gain an unhealthy amount of weight and end up like his grandfather, on the verge of diabetes among other problems.

Stacey says:

That it will not be nourishing to her body

varina says:

I am always concerned about my 3 year old and the VERY picky eating habbits he has developed. He helps me shop for the food (and we discuss it as we shop), prepare the food (as he can) and we talk about why this certain food is good for his body. I don’t buy, or feed him junk food and only prepare one meal for the whole family. I refuse to start making separate meals when I want him to learn. I have tried making it fun and preparing healthy meals in a variety of ways. I have to puree veggies and add them into foods to ensure he is getting what he needs ( I do it anyway though). He will gladly skip a meal or two and opt to sit at the table quietly or even ask to just go to bed. AHHHHHHHH!!!!

Sarah F. says:

I don’t have kids just yet, but considering I was a picky eater as a kid (and so was my husband apparently) I want to learn how to avoid that in my own children!

Erin Darosa says:

I often worry about #4. I am a RD so I know that I offer my children variety and having read so many great articles by RDs about ‘fearless feeding’, and the ‘division of responsibilty’ I know that I don’t put pressure on my kids regarding their eating, which really does work, at least with my 4 kids. I worry more about the external cues and messages they hear about body image. I try very hard on a daily basis to talk about a healthy, strong body and the fuel that food gives us INSTEAD of focusing on the words like ‘diet’ and ‘fat and skinny’ My hope is that my messages are louder than the ones they hear on TV or in books, or even form their peers.

Kate says:

I worry that my daughter isn’t getting the nutrition she needs to be healthy, and will develop unhealthy eating habits as she gets older. She’s an independent toddler, and lately prefers to throw her food rather than eat it!

Marion Millan says:

What other people feed my little ones when I am not there to make the best choices for them. As one of their grandparents said “I will feed them what I want.” On that note they have never been left alone with them becuase of that and they don’t eat non-gmo, no preservatives, additive foods.

Jacqui says:

My 2 year old refuses to try new foods. He will only eat chicken nuggets, cereal, cottage cheese and a few other things. He is very good about eating fruit. I try not to push him to eat the new foods. I just put them on his plate. He acts as if they are not there. I am worried this will get worse as he gets older. Meal times are hard since he won’t eat what I eat.

Ericka says:

I worry that my daughter will never be a healthy eater, that she was born this way. My son is an amazing healthy eater, fruits, veggies, flax, brewers yeast, kale, etc….I worked so hard making the baby food, being creative…. did the same for both but my daughter hates it all! I feel guilty and at a loss, I want her to eat healthy too.

Karen says:

What worries me is making sure my 3 year old establishes a healthy eating relationship, and doesn’t stress eat like I do.

Jana says:

My kids eat so many sweets. They are like a bottomless pit when it comes to candy.

Jennifer Minnick says:

I am worried that I am not making the right choices for my family and then it will trickle down and my children will not make the right choices for their families and so on.

Shannon B says:

My biggest worry is almost what she eats to how much she eats. Obesity runs in my family and I grew up being an over weight child. In my adult life I’ve lost over 140 lbs, but I worry because I know what I went through growing up and I certainly DO NOT want that for my girls. Girls have so many other issues to worry about I certainly don’t want weight to be an issue. I worry that I’m going to become obsessed with their weight and I don’t want them to become anorexic so I have to find a balance for myself..which is very hard!

Tina Hirshland says:

I worry that my child is a mindless, emotional eater already at age 9. Trying to keep her fulfilled with activities that she loves.

Jodie says:

I worry all the time about finding a balance between teaching my daughters to love food, but the right kinds of foods. I worry constantly about my oldest daughter who is very picky. I feel like we have daily battles and I would love to figure out what I can do better to help her.

Betty says:

When trying to introduce (or reintroduce) new foods my daughter does the sniff test and says its yucky. She’ll then refuse to take a bite to even try it. Most of the time there are no strong smells at all.

Susan Thomas says:

What worries me most about feeding my children is that they develop a good relationship with food. My youngest is difficult to feed and I get easily discouraged when I try my best to make sure that I feed her well and she does not eat anything I prepare. I don’t force food but some days I really want to.

Deedi says:

From the time she was born my daughter has barely eaten anything. She only nursed for a few minutes then, and now it’s only a few bites. I supplement her milk with calories and nutrients, but I worry most about her life long eating habits. I struggle to make what she does eat something healthy especially when she will eat more of the not great for stuff. I truly want her to develop better habits so she doesn’t doesn’t struggle with food/weight issues her whole life.

Laura says:

What worries me most is that my kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables despite me offering them regularly. They choose to not eat at all instead.

Heidi Montville says:

I worry most about giving my kids a good variety of foods. I feel like we tend to eat the same foods over and over because we know they like them and will actually eat them. I am trying very hard to introduce new and healthy things along with the favorites. It doesn’t always work, but I’m going to keep trying! 🙂

Susan Scovell says:

I worry most about my own habit of often taking the easy way out feeding my children. I want to feed them healthy options all of the time but I more often than not feed them pasta or something that I get get on the table fast. I’ve found it t takes planning to feed your children well.

Lauren Reid says:

What worries me the most about feeding my picky eater is that since he began eating solids 3 years ago, he pretty much rejects everything nutritional. It horrifies me that when given the opportunity, he will eat something junky without hesitation. I want my son to get a taste for a wider range of foods.

Laura says:

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder (but now in recovery), I worry desperately about imparting my own food hang-ups to my some-day children. How will I encourage them to eat a healthy variety, not over or under eat, to trust their hunger, etc. without seeming obsessed? I was truly relieved when I found “Raise Healthy Eaters” and “Fearless Feeding” because it gives me hope that I can raise healthy, well rounded, balanced children.

Tricia says:

What worries me us that my daughter doesn’t eat from most of the food groups. We have tried many different ways to get her to try new foods but she refuses. I am very concerned that she is not getting the nutrients she needs. She is 7.

Emily G says:

I am always worried that he is a picky eater. He just turned three and there’s not much more than 20 or so foods he will eat and yes, he does throw tantrums around trying new foods. He also pretty much shuns the whole protein food group. Guess I do need to worry a little bit, huh?

Debbie says:

I am constantly worrying that I’m not putting enough variety in her diet, and when she asks for a certain snack I cringe because I wish she would request healthier options! (But she’s 3! So of course she’s going to love goldfish more than broccoli!)

Dorey says:

Our situation at home can be very challenging at times. My oldest step son has aspergers syndrome which makes trying new things or offering variety very difficut. In addtion we live in a blended family. Although we all get along wonderfully, our families have different beliefs about food. It can be challenging when the children go from house to house and there is the constant worry on both sides that they aren’t getting what they need to be healthy kids. At our home we have gotten the “myplate” plates, and offer a wide variety of fruits and veggies and always include ones they like. We have also tried to be creative as possible in presenting foods in a different way such as on kabobs, or frozen. We have also found that if the kids make the food, especially our step son, they are more apt to give it a try.

Stephanie says:

What worries me is wondering if I will be able to get my son back on track with healthy eating. He used to eat everything and then just stopped. I developed very poor eating habits myself and I’m still trying to overcome them. I don’t want this to be a lifelong struggle for him.

Leslie Neitzel says:

What worries me most is setting the right example, not forcing but teaching them to make the right decisions. There are too many choices, influences and the like. I want them to know the pros and cons in the decisions they make.

Rachel says:

We are having our first in November so it’ll be awhile before I have to worry about this but I’m worried about balancing between making sure they eat real food but not going crazy with outlawing sugar and turning it into a forbidden fruit…

Carly Webster says:

I’m worried that my 23 month old daughter will not eat any veggies because I know how nutritious they are for her. She ate the homemade baby food I made and once she was on solids, she stopped. I try and be creative but she always catches on! I LOVE healthy food and it makes me so sad and frustrated that she doesn’t. She is so picky!

Kelly Kramer says:

I am worried about my three year old being picky an not eating his veggies even if we say he only has to take one bite! But an even bigger worry now is his one year old brother following his path!

Laura says:

Getting enough variety into our 2 year old’s diet.

Kelley Hill says:

I worry about my toddler not getting enough variety of nutrients.

Preyanka says:

Is that they ll be accustomed to processed fast foods and they will not appreciate good quality healthy foods.

Stephanie Kirk says:

They seem to be easier to fed when they were younger and less picky. As they get older they are getting more picky and seeing what others eat and wanting to eat it too. Food that comes in a box is not food and that is what I tell them but society is telling them other wise with their boxed pizza filled with preservatives and colors. HELP!

Allison says:

I’m worried because a relative keeps my kids and gives them snacks throughout the day so they never have the chance to develop a sense of hunger.

Amber says:

I am most worried about my kids becoming very picky eaters like my husband is. I worry about food a lot because I work with preschool kids, I make the menus that they eat breakfast, lunch and snack from, so it does get stressful trying to make sure that I feed them healthy foods and expose them to new foods as much as possible.

Jamie says:

My biggest concern is that my kids refuse to eat most vegetables. But hearing this above makes me feel better. There are a few they will eat and the love fruit!

Kerri says:

I hae twins, so I have double and different worries. But I have one who is really big that eats nothing and one who is tiny and eats everything, but then throws up alot too. So I worry, will he ever get bigger!

Laura G says:

What worries me the most is not being able to reduce bad habits that we use to let our children indulge in. Like fruit snacks, juice, hot dogs, pepperoni, etc.

Danica says:

One of my almost 3-year old twins tells me all the time “I don’t like food”. He only eats about six things and is so small. We have started down the path of trying to get outside help. But my worry is – did I create this and how can I reverse it…

Elena M says:

What worries me most is that he is not getting all the proper nutrients for his body and that I’m a bad example for him

Jenalyn says:

I worry that my son’s picky eating could be stunting his growth,

Erin P says:

1. Being the gatekeeper of a child who is 6 &8 years younger than her older sibs is far more difficult than when I did the same role with those older two. The older two have some bad habits but generally eat really well because we worked hard with them when they were little, and kept the junk to a minimum.
2. Getting good nutrition into a child who has a dairy-free diet

ClaireG says:

I have an almost 4yr old who is just always too busy and distracted to be bothered with the process of eating. It’s eat on the run for her and I would live to book to help me make mealtimes more pleasant, more stressful and less a time I fear each day.

ClaireG says:

I meant less stressful

Cellabella says:

I’m an expectant mom and I worry that I might pass on my past disordered eating to my child (I’m in recovery now). I just have to remind myself to continue to be healthy to myself as an example. Thank you for your list!

Melissa says:

I worry that I won’t successfully help them develop healthy eating habits and they’ll eventually succumb to the fast food nation. 🙁

Shellie says:

I’m worried that I am not offering enough challenging foods and too often falling back on the same old “safe” meals.

Megan says:

I worry that my son doesn’t eat from enough food groups (specifically proteins and veggies).

Yesenia munoz says:

I worry my son isn’t getting enough protein. He doesn’t eat meat (chicken etc). I try and sneak that plus egg whites or tofu into his food. He will eat nuts and butter

Jenny says:

I worry that my daughter does eat enough veggies or proteins and that she is already overweight and needs to understand making healthy choices.

Debbie says:

What worries me the most about feeding my kids is being too extreme one way or the other. I grew up not eating junk food very much, so of course once I was out on my own that was all I wanted to eat. It’s hard to find a good balance between healthy food and “sometimes” food.

Melinda says:

What worries me most about feeding my children is that I will fall into a routine where I only feed them things I know they love and don’t expose them to other foods in fear of rejection. Sometimes so much time and effort goes into preparing a new dish only to be met with rejection, it’s really quite daunting at times!

Ariela says:

What worries me most about my son being a very picky eater is that he is not getting the nutrients he needs to grow and that he will get fat from eating only carbohydrates. I need a way to get protein and vegt into his diet. HELP

Betsy says:

I’m concerned that while he’s eating, my son doesn’t seem to be growing nearly as much as his friends.

Betsy says:

I’m concerned that while he’s eating, my son doesn’t seem to be growing nearly as much as his friends.

Jill C. says:

What worries me most about feeding my children is meal time turning into a battle ground.

Gary says:

What worries me the most about feeding my kids is that they are not getting enough nutrients to feed their growing bodies.

Cami says:

#5 really rings true for our family. Grandma associates showing love with treat and junk food. When the kids come home sick and behaving badly I feel awful but I don’t want to be ungrateful for my mom’s help. Plus, they think I’m extreme for not keeping junk food in our house.

Omy C. says:

This are indeed very helpful to all worried parents out there who are having trouble feeding their kids! I found this post to be very helpful because now I understand that children’s eating patterns can change at some point in time and that I know when to worry and what to do to remedy feeding problems. Thanks for taking the time to share this helpful advice. I’ll use this when I become a parent in the future and will bookmark this post for future reference.

Kelly says:

My greatest worry is that my 2 yo son (who use to eat anything and everything) does not start to pick up habits of my 4 yo daughter who is very picky. She will not eat veggies and very limited proteins! She understands “healthy choices,” but continues to eat very few foods.

Evelyn says:

What worries me most is that my son has autism, and sensory issues with his foods. He eats maybe 15 different foods, if that, and although most of those foods are fruit, he is CONSTANTLY constipated.

Barbara Garrido says:

I have a 6 and an 8 year old. I have really tried to focus on healthy eating this past year. I worry that not focusing on it enough when they were younger will impact their lifelong eating habits.

Laurett says:

I was worried about my son’s ambivalence about meat… Until he had his annual checkup & we saw how much he grew in the last year!

Alice says:

Healthy eating and exercise has to be started from childhood otherwise childhood obesity can lead to problems later in life.

You ought to appreciate the effort and dedication behind such delicate research. It is sad that posts like these are not widespread among general public!

Dr. Chris Ko says:

This a great post with really practical tips. As a physician, I find the greatest supportive role I can provide my patients is reassurance of what is normal behavior and this post addresses that. I firmly agree that we as parents wield great positive influence in determining our children’s food environment. And while its normal for kids to start becoming selective about their choices, simple strategies like roasting vegetables and changing vegetables into forms that are visually appealing to kids can be tremendously helpful in creating positive eating habits early.

Ambrosia says:

One thing you can do is make homemade nuggets. I made some in processor and they were really good and baked.

Ambrosia says:

My 18 month old doesn’t like veggies either, unless I sneak into his mouth. But I get the organic baby food pouches, and he gets one every other or every few days if I think he needs it. I give as a snack. He won’t do plan veggies, it has to be sweetened by a fruit too. But at least I can get him to eat spinach! (w/ pears lol) He thinks he’s cool w/ the pouch. Whatever it takes to get it in. Picking my battles. I still offer veggies on plate though.

jackie-2 says:

Keep up what you are doing. You are already an amazing mom!! You did good things with your son, as can be seen through your description….so don’t give up! 🙂

Rene says:

I was picky as well when I was a kid. But now it’s different. I ate what ever my wife gave me. Now I love Fish & vegetables…

However, I am worried about my kids… specially my 8 year old first born.. we always have a fight EVERY TIME I offer her something…

What will I do..? I am worried that it might impact her school performance…

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