restrictive eating in kids and teens

November 19, 2023

As a parent, it can be concerning when you notice changes in your child’s eating habits. You may start to wonder if they are developing disordered eating behaviors or if their restrictive eating is something more serious. It’s important to have an understanding of what restrictive eating looks like and how it differs from normal picky eating in children.

First, let’s define restrictive eating. Restrictive eating is when a child has a limited variety of foods in their diet and avoids certain types of food, often for reasons other than health or allergies. This can include avoiding entire food groups or only being willing to eat a few select foods.

So how do you know if your child’s restrictive eating is something to be concerned about? Here are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for:

  • Extreme pickiness: While many children can be picky eaters, those with restrictive eating will have a much more limited range of acceptable foods. They may also refuse to try new foods or even certain textures.
  • Obsessive behavior around food: Children with restrictive eating may become fixated on their meals, constantly talking about what they will or won’t eat. They may also have strict rules around food, such as only eating at certain times or in specific portions.
  • Fear of weight gain: Children with restrictive eating may express a fear of gaining weight and become overly concerned about their body image.
  • Emotional distress around food: Restrictive eating can lead to anxiety or even panic attacks when faced with certain foods or situations involving food.

If you notice these signs in your child, it’s important to address them as soon as possible. The longer restrictive eating behaviors continue, the harder they can be to break.

Treatment for restrictive eating may involve working with a therapist or registered dietitian who specializes in child nutrition and disordered eating. They will help your child develop a more positive relationship with food and address any underlying emotional issues. It’s also important for parents to create a supportive and non-judgmental environment at home, where meals are not seen as a battle.

Remember, every child is different and may have their own reasons for engaging in restrictive eating behaviors. As a parent, it’s important to approach the situation with understanding and compassion. With proper support and guidance, your child can develop a healthy relationship with food and their body. So if you notice any signs of restrictive eating in your child, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You are not alone in this journey. Let’s work together to ensure our children grow up with a positive mindset towards food and themselves. So let’s continue to educate ourselves, have open and honest conversations with our children, and prioritize their well-being. Because a healthy relationship with food is essential for their overall physical and emotional health. So let’s support our children in creating a positive and balanced approach to eating. Remember, it takes a village! Keep an eye out for these signs, trust your instincts as a parent, and seek professional help if needed. Together, we can help our children develop a healthy and happy relationship with food. Keep up the great work, parents! Your love and support are instrumental in helping your child thrive.

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