A recent study from the Netherlands found that that preschoolers of parents with anxiety or depression during pregnancy were fussier eaters. Fussy eating can be a health problem and hassle for parents. Weight issues and behavioral issues are just some of the problems that parents may face. Parents often become confused and concerned when they cannot find healthy foods that their children like to eat.

Researchers examined pregnant women living in Rotterdam who delivered their child between April 2002 and January 2006. Parents answered questions about their own mental health during different periods and their children’s eating behaviors at three years old. They found a link between mothers’ anxiety and depression symptoms both during and after pregnancy and their children’s fussiness with eating. Father’s anxiety during early childhood (not during pregnancy) was also connected to fussy eating. Thus, the study’s findings suggest that having anxiety and depressive symptoms may contribute to picky eating behaviors. Based on their results, the researchers recommend that healthcare practitioners be aware of anxiety and depressive symptoms as they are risk factors for fussy eating in children. The study was published in the journal of Archives of Disease in Childhood.

If you are struggling with a picky eater at home, here are some tips:

  • Be a role model: Try eating together as a family and allow your child watch you eat a variety of foods. Enticing them to eat what you are eating or seeing you enjoying eating serves to reinforce eating.
  • Try not to stress: Children can often sense when their parents are stressed, so try to stay in the moment and keep positive. When your child does eat something, give them praise. This is called Positive Reinforcement and is one of the best behavioral methods for increasing a behavior.
  • Avoid distractions: Children are frequently distracted, so attempt to make meal times stress free and relaxed. Turn off the television, tablets, phones, etc.
  • Be creative: You may want to try a couple different foods and allow your child to experiment. You can even present a variety of foods to nibble. Be creative with sauces, dips, and other ways to incorporate healthy foods. There are loads of recipes and ideas on the internet and in parenting magazines that you can borrow.
  • Get your child involved: When your child is old enough to help shop and make food preparations, they may be more interested in eating what they helped to make.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider: If you feel concerned about your child’s picky eating, talk to a professional who can provide you with sound advice and tips.