Dec. 6, 2021

Ask Amy- My Kid Gags At Foods He Used To Like!

If kids already have limited food repertoires, seeing them reduce their list of acceptable foods is very stressful. What should a parent do when her child’s picky eating actually increases with age? How can parents push back without power struggles?

What happens when your child’s picky eating actually increases with age? If your kid already had a limited food repertoire, seeing them reduce their list of acceptable foods can be very stressful. But how can a parent push back without causing a power struggle?

This week’s question comes from Katherine: 

My 7-year-old son (who has sensory issues) gags frequently at the smell and sight of foods, and even at non-food objects. One time he threw up at the sight of a smushed acorn in our driveway. He's even started to gag at foods that were once reliable staples for him– pasta, scrambled and boiled eggs, dinosaur chicken nuggets. Once he gags, he will never consider the food again. I've explained this in depth to his pediatrician, but she just shrugged it off. Any tips, insights, or experts that you might know of would really, really help.

Kids do well if they can. No kid wants to have stress around eating, let alone gagging. It’s important to rule out medical explanations or food allergies– but once you have, this is most likely either “neophobia” (anxiety caused by fear of trying new things), “food selectivity” (what experts call kids with extreme food preferences and aversions), or both. 

The support of a professional is really important here- seek out an occupational therapist or pediatric nutritionist with experience in these areas. In the meantime, consider the “food chaining” technique as explained by pediatric and family nutritionist Megan Boitano:

There are no quick fixes for kids who have food issues like these. But with patience, empathy, and time, you should see marked improvement in the variety of foods your child will eat. Keep the faith– it’s worth the effort. 

Check out this research for more information:

@meganboitano on twitter

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