Parents battling their children's fussy eating have been given fresh hope thanks to an online resource shown to relieve the problem.
With around half of toddlers and young children turning their noses up at certain foods - often healthy fruit and vegetables - many families face stressful mealtimes. And parents' reactions, often using unhealthy foods as a 'reward' or limiting access to them, can be counter-productive and lead to bad habits that last into adulthood.
A new study has found that the Child Feeding Guide, a free online resource developed by experts at Aston University and Loughborough University, not only helped mothers who took part to change their approach to feeding but also reduced their own self-reported anxiety by nearly 20% in four weeks.
From the age of about 18 months, between a third and half of children go through a period known as 'neophobia' - a fear of new things - in relation to food. This is thought to be an evolutionary development that stopped children from eating potentially poisonous food.
For the study, 25 mothers with children aged six months to four years used the Child Feeding Guide website over four weeks. Mothers provided information about their feeding practices and anxiety levels at the beginning of the study, and again four weeks later.
Significant decreases were seen in mothers' own anxiety and in the use of 'pressure to eat' - trying to force children to eat foods they didn't want - and 'restriction of food' - hiding away unhealthy foods. Mothers reported that the guide was easy to use, that they valued its credibility and reassurances and that its content helped them to better understand their child's eating behaviour.
Many parents report that they worry that their child's health will suffer because of fussy eating, or that their children won't eat healthfully in the future. The Child Feeding Guide reassures parents that this is very common and children tend to grow out of picky eating, and that they can influence their child's eating by using an evidence-based approach.
Making parents and caregivers aware of why their child might be refusing food or prefer eating pasta to carrots, and what they can do to help overcome this, is a key part of the Child Feeding Guide.
More than 80,000 people have sought support from the Guide which Loughborough University's Dr
Source: Nutrition Bulletin, June 8, 2020
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