Eating Disorder Therapy

My Kid’s Weirdest Eating Habits Are…

Weird Eating Habit of Children - ARFIDLet’s face it – Kids are picky and many can have a weird eating habit. They can also be stubborn and as a parent, no one wants to force their kid to eat something he or she doesn’t want. Why even put up a fight?

Below is a list of ways kids handle their food and how you can understand what to do – maybe it’s not so uncommon after all.

Weird Eating Habit #1 – The Chicken Nugget.

Will your kid ever eat anything besides the holy grail of kids food? Yes. But it takes some work. Preference of “white foods” is a phase unless it becomes a pattern of parenting. An adolescent who only eats chicken nuggets, french fries, bread and other similar items is more common than you’d expect.  20% of the people I work with have this difficulty.

It can be overcome. Finding ways to address the preference and listening to the reasonings behind your child choice is key. Your kid may have to learn that preference is not always available.  Are you a parent that constantly wants to make your child happy?  They will play on this and manipulate you through their independent preference.  You don’t have to be a short order cook.

Weird Eating Habit #2 – The Texture of Food

Texture can provide an unpleasant experience for  of people. Maybe your kid struggles with yogurt or peanut butter. Possibly there is a problem surrounding more earthy foods.  This is ok to go through but also requires normalization.

This can be a sign of anxiety, OCD, or some other related fear.  These are finger foods and provide a comfort and familiarity for the child.

Weird Eating Habit #3 – Constantly Getting Up From the Table

The quick answer – If you child is under 7 it’s because your kid is normal. But if this is something that is happening in pre-teen and adolescent years than you can’t allow them to blame this on the food or your cooking.

It’s never too late to set clear expectations. Before the meal begins tell your child that dinner will be ready in 10 minutes, then prepare them with five and then call them to eat.   If they seem antsy, challenge your child to stay for 10 minutes and then they can go.  Trying to slowly expose your child to proper table manners and participation takes time and practice.

Weird Eating Habit #4 – Refusing To Eat

Your kid is asserting independence. The amount of control and choice your child has is limited. Their lives are so regimented and planned. You see signs of an awesome personality and he knows what he wants – particularly around the little things.

This is absolutely normal and part of being a kid. It’s healthy and a sign of independence and choice. Just know that there is a limit. One or two items is fine, but if it becomes an increasing amount you have to find a way to step in and reinforce your independence as a parent.

Don’t offer another meal option!

What many of us get wrong is that we want our kid to continue with their independent choices.  If you have made a meal for the family and your child wants something else – be careful. Once in a while is fine but every meal is a problem.

Weird Eating Habit - ARFID

Don’t make a separate meal for your child. Teaching your kid that meal time is an inclusive family event is key to their social development.  Take a bite of your food and show them you like it just by eating. If they still resist, be careful of getting frustrated and showing your emotions escalating. Be careful of compromise. If they don’t want to eat whats on their plate that’s ok, maybe they just aren’t that hungry at that moment.

There’s only one option

Leave the food on the table for them to come back reiterate that they won’t get dessert (or reward) if they don’t eat.

WHATEVER YOU DO – Don’t let your child grab the attention. Just keep to your meal and the more you can resist giving into the attention seeking or the refusal, the more your child will come around.

Weird Eating Habit #5 – No Appetite for No Apparent Reason

If this happens – it’s normal. Check to make sure that there weren’t any snacks give in the past 2 hours. If so, then reduce accessibility to constant snacks and make sure that you don’t feed your child 2 hours before meal time.

If that isn’t the case and your child just states he has no appetite, then there’s likely something more at play. Communicate to you child that this is the time everyone eats and there will be no snacking afterwards.

Weird Eating Habit #6 – Very slow eating

This is fine, as long as it doesn’t take two hours. If your child consistently eats very slowly and never can finish an appropriate portion of food, try to address it with during the day. Bring it up without making  a big deal and instill confidence that you believe they will be ok and that everyone needs a particular amount of food to feel better each day.  Don’t give in, a little avoidance of food now can turn to more controlled eating later.

Weird Eating Habig #7 – Difficulty Eating Meals with Family or Friends

Some kids shutter at eating food in front of their friends. Maybe they don’t like pizza or chicken nuggets aren’t being served that day.  Understand that it all goes back to normalizing meals at home. This takes time and practice.  Our children handle the outside world by what is allowed in our home.  On the opposite side – our children also react to the world to an overly controlling home environment. A balance has to be reached.

Weird Eating Habit #8 – Fear of Choking or Vomiting

If you kiddo speak about fears associated with vomiting and food, please help them understand that they will be ok.  Help them understand that food isn’t going to hurt them in any way. If there is a real fear of vomiting try to seek out further support by helping you child understand that they don’t throw up when eating other foods and that the human body doesn’t resist foods just because they seem distasteful. It’s a hard nut to crack but in the end – food doesn’t hurt.

In the End – Don’t Panic!

Your child is going to react to whatever you allow. It’s all in the delivery. If you find that the eating behaviors go deeper (anxiety, avoidance or something else), try doing research on ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder).  You can also contact a local therapist to help identify the anxiety or resistance. Sometimes a simple fear can manifest and take over.

Other times, we just need to instill boundaries and understanding.