A toddler who is constantly requesting macaroni and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, refusing new foods or avoiding greens AKA a picky eater may be showing signs of neophobia. Around the second year of life kids may develop this condition, which typically stems from anxiety surrounding a traumatic incident with a specific food. Choking on a piece of broccoli or a bout of gastroenteritis may cause kids to fear foods that they associate with negative sensations.
Typically, toddlers will grow out of these kind of single-minded eating behaviors that have them eating only orange foods or pasta. Parents struggling with neophobic children must get creative and can substitute certain foods for ones with similar nutritional content. Kids who refuse milk and yogurt can also get calcium from cheese in slices of pizza, for example. If veggies are a problem, pureeing these and adding them to soup or spaghetti sauce sometimes does the trick.
First impressions matter, even with gustatory introductions. Parents of picky eaters can avoid very pungent smelling or tasting foods, especially during these initial introductions. Kids who are very selective in their tastes may have heightened senses and will avoid and refuse the food if the scents and flavors are too strong.
In order to avoid malnutrition a food aversion that lasts for over a few months should be addressed by a professional physician and therapist. If kids have difficulty chewing and swallowing multiple foods, gag in the process of doing so, or avoid eating altogether, this may be a sign of a more serious food aversion. To encourage healthy eating behaviors families should maintain a positive, upbeat atmosphere during mealtimes. Parents can also encourage children to eat a particular food without forcing, as forcing tends to lead to frustrations at the table and further negative associations with the particular food.