The Diet Shift: Understanding the Picky Eater

Aqiva - Understading the Picky Eater Kate Di Prima

“You are what you eat,” the old saying goes—and while that might be true, it just doesn’t seem to bother children.
Statistics show that letting kids take the rein when it comes to their diet has led to some potentially alarming figures—

In a review of Philippine statistics presented by Kate Di Prima, a dietician, adult and infant nutritionist, and the media spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, there is an increasing trend of overweight children between the ages of zero and five years old. On the flipside, an even higher figure (nearly 20%) have been reported to be underweight. Over half of Filipino mothers consider their children to be picky eaters, which could mean their kids are now at a higher risk for nutrient deficiency. This could lead to lowered immunity, anemia, recurring infections and a higher likelihood of developing lifestyle ailments such as diabetes and heart disease later in life.

“There are various reasons that contribute to these current trends,” begins Di Prima. “But largely, it’s that children go through a Diet Shift, or a phase when they become picky with their food and unfortunately choose unhealthy options.”

Most parents are quick to chalk up their kids’ unhealthy eating habits as something that they will eventually outgrow. It doesn’t matter if they’ve suddenly become picky about what food to eat–after all, they have a lifetime ahead to learn and appreciate the merits of a balanced diet.

But it would be naïve to expect kids, who grew up on a steady diet of processed foods and take-out for instance, to suddenly shift to healthier options of their own volition; especially when they reach that age where they will have the choice to have a bag of chips over a bowl of salad; a candy bar over a banana; a bottle of soda instead of a glass of milk.

This “Diet Shift,” as it is called, marks that moment when a child’s normal appetite for healthy food suddenly shifts towards unhealthy options, which may put them at risk for nutritional and developmental gaps.

“It is marked by several telltale signs that parents need to take note of. For instance, have you noticed how your child seems to eat only one food at a time? Are they refusing to eat food served on the table leading you too serve a quick fry up of processed options? Do they refuse to eat without having the TV on?” says Di Prima.

She expounds on this point by explaining the 6 common signs of picky eating:

Food jags, is when your child insists on eating only one food at a time. Food strikes are when your child refuses to eat what is served. The TV Habit means your child won’t eat unless he or she is watching TV. The complainer is marked by constant whining or complaining about food that is served. The Great White Diet is when the child insists on only eating “white” food—rice, white bread, pasta; and Fear of new food is when a child generally refuses to try anything new altogether.

“Regardless of whether this stage in your child’s life is a phase, there are serious consequences attached to letting children win this fight. Picky eaters are at a huge risk of not receiving the recommended levels of nutrients that they need, which could lead to being underweight, slow in mental development or more susceptible to illness. And as growing, developing kids, they need all the nutrients they can get,” she adds.

There is no one–size-fits-all approach to helping kids overcome their Diet Shift or picky eating habits, but there are ways to help ensure that while you and maybe your pediatrician are trying to manage the situation, your child still receives the necessary nutrients he needs.

“Fill in nutritional gaps by making healthier options available at home. Understand how your child is manifesting his picky eating habits and work around that; try to reinvent healthy recipes into something familiar so that your child won’t be afraid to try it. More importantly, make sure that your kid receives the right amount of nutrients by giving him a milk supplement,” adds Di Prima.

Aqiva, a powdered milk drink for children 4 years and older, recognizes the need for proper nutritional supplementation of children going through the Diet Shift. “We want to help moms fight Diet Shift by instilling the importance of parental guidance and support towards healthy eating, to ensure that the child’s growth and development remain on-track,” said Aqiva Senior Product Manager Carlo de la Paz.

When partnered with nutritional counseling, Aqiva is clinically shown to improve nutrient intake in children. With its higher levels of Additional, Quality and Important “A.Q.I” Nutrients, Aqiva helps support mental and visual development, maintains a healthy immune system, and helps keep the child’s growth on-track.