Mealtime is something many parents dread because of the struggle to get children to eat enough vegetables.
But one study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, only 16 percent of young people should be classed as “picky” eaters.
Researchers at Aston University surveyed almost 1,000 British parents about their children’s eating styles.
Their findings suggest that all young people fit into one of four food categories.
While 16 percent are classified as “picky eaters,” the other 84 percent are “avid,” “happy” or “typical” eaters, they say.
While 16 percent of children are classified as “picky eaters,” the other 84 percent are “avid,” “happy” or “typical” eaters, they say.
A study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, only 16 percent of children should be classified as “picky” eaters (file image)
The four eating styles
- Average (44%) – typical consumers
- Demanding (16%) – eat slowly with low levels of enjoyment
- Happy (18%) – they enjoy food and are not picky
- Avid (22%) – enjoy food but eat too quickly
In the study, the team set out to investigate eating behavior patterns in primary school children and how they are associated with eating practices.
Researchers surveyed 995 parents and caregivers of children aged three to five in England and Wales about their children’s eating habits across eight behaviors.
These were food responsiveness, emotional overeating, food enjoyment, desire to drink, satiety responsiveness, slow eating, emotional undereating, and food irritability.
The results were then collated, revealing four distinct categories of consumers.
According to the researchers, 44 percent of the children had “average” levels of all eight behaviors and should be classified as “typical” eaters.
Meanwhile, 16 percent are classified as “avoidant” (or picky) eaters.
“Avoidant eating” was characterized by significantly high levels of food irritability, satiety responsiveness, slow eating, and lack of emotional eating, along with significantly low levels of food enjoyment compared to the other three. profiles,” the researchers wrote in their study, published in Apetito.
According to the researchers, forty-four percent of the children had “average” levels of all eight behaviors and should be classified as “typical” eaters (file image).
Eighteen percent are “happy” eaters, who had high levels of food enjoyment, but low levels of slow eating, food restlessness, emotional overeating, and emotional undereating.
Finally, 22 percent were classified as “avid” consumers, who had a higher enjoyment of food, faster eating rate, and less sensitivity to internal “fullness” signals.
Researchers say children in this group are at greater risk for overeating and subsequent weight gain.
The team hopes that the findings can be used to design more personalized strategies to improve healthy eating in children.
Dr Abigail Pickard, lead author of the study, said: “Parents can use this research to help them understand what type of eating pattern their child has.
“Then, based on the child’s dietary profile, parents can adapt their feeding strategies to the child.
“For example, children with a greedy eating profile may benefit more from covert food restriction, that is, not bringing snacks home or not having food in sight, to reduce the temptation to eat food in the absence of hunger. .
“Whereas, if a child displays picky eating behavior, it would be more beneficial for them to have a balanced and varied selection of foods on display to encourage them to try foods without pressure to eat.”