Picky Eating: Food Preference or Health Issue?

Food and fellowship. In the home, this is mealtime. Training our children in civility at the dinner table starts young. Most families have mealtime rules like:

  • Food goes in your mouth, not on the floor
  • Hands rest on the sides of the highchair tray, not on your head!
  • Use sign language or your quiet voice to say “More, please!” and “Thank you!”
  • Wait patiently until others have finished their meal.
  • Ask to be excused from the table.
  • Try new foods with a cheerful heart.

Ah, in a perfect world, one lesson and our children would “get it.”

In the real world, learning good table manners is a multi-lesson experience. The kitchen table is the place we train our children to eat whatever is placed before them. We lovingly prepare food that will meet their nutritional needs. We also work with them on being thankful for their food, which is tangible evidence of God’s provision. And let’s face it: we want them to eat whatever is placed before them at someone else’s home. Learning to enjoy all kinds of foods is a skill! How many of us were not broccoli fans when we were children, but now we get excited over broccoli? Maybe I chose a poor example… Children may express their dislike for certain foods, and sometimes in ways we do not enjoy! The flipped plate or the scream (cover your ears!) are just two of the experiences the mom next door has had with her children. 😉

Some of us have struggled with the question: why is my child all-of-a-sudden a “picky eater”? This happened to me. My toddler did not flip her plate or scream, but she did tell me that she did not want to eat red meat. Ever again. Obviously, this was an obedience issue! (I was not the perfect mother ~ still am not!) I tried several times to get our daughter to eat hamburger and recipes that included ground beef. She ate everything else, but not red meat. It got me thinking and praying. Why would she try everything else but avoid red meat? Finally, after careful observation, I determined red meat made her little tummy sick. She was avoiding a food that made her feel bad. It wasn’t an obedience issue after all! It was a health issue. She chose to eat foods that made her feel good. In a sense, I guess she was a picky eater! 😉

If your little ones are showing an openness to eating different foods, but there are one or two they will not eat, do some investigating! It might not be an obedience issue at all. They might just be trying to tell you that that food makes them feel badly.

Please know I am not a medical professional, nor do I intend to offer my story as medical advice. I just wanted to share my experience in hopes it would be helpful to other families.

Glen and Jerrine Hicks have been married 33 years and live near Sedalia, CO.  They have two adult daughters and one son-in-love.  Jerrine’s idea of a perfect day would include a pot of PG Tips tea, some dark chocolate, a Jane Austen movie, and time reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jerry Bridges, Emilie Barnes or L.M. Montgomery.  She loves couchtime with her Glen.  She is an introvert.  😉  The Hickses have been involved with Growing Families since 1996.  

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  1. Dean Leaman
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    I’m so comforted to see your post. I’ve just recently returned from overseas. I believe I finally grasp the weight of the question you asked me so long ago. I would so liked to have seen your mother again to apologize to her face to face for such idiocy. I hope you too can forgive me for the foolishness of my youth and my negligence toward you. I hope I meet Glen and all of your family someday. It makes me smile to see you walking with Jesus like I watched you do every day. I just wish all those we knew would have held on tight and found rest in His tender mercy!

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