Many parents will know the common battle of getting a young “picky eater” to try new foods.
But table battles could be the least of your worries, as a new study suggests restless children could lead to a lifetime of poor health.
Experts from the Netherlands found that children who refused to eat many foods when they were four and five years old ate fewer fruits, vegetables, dairy products and fish when they turned 18 compared to their non-picky counterparts.
The authors, who compared the eating habits of almost 1,000 people as children and adults over the age of 14 in 880 people, said the results highlighted that children should not be ruled out as picky eaters.
Eating fewer healthy fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins like fish, can increase your risk of obesity and a host of other health conditions.
Experts from the Netherlands found that four- to five-year-old children who were picky eaters consumed less fruit, vegetables, dairy and fish by the time they turned 18 than their non-picky counterparts.
But to reassure those who like to give children the occasional sweet, eating junk food like soda or snacks when they were young was not associated with a higher body mass index later in life.
The study, published in the journal Appetitewas based on results collected from almost 880 children who grew up in the southeast of the Netherlands.
Researchers from Maastricht University interviewed the children’s mothers in 2007, when the children were between four and five years old.
The mothers were asked about their children’s eating habits and each child was given a score out of five, rating their demand; the average child scored 2.24.
Then, 14 years later, in 2021, the children, now 18 years old, were interviewed about their food intake and how often they ate certain products.
The now adults were also asked about their height and weight to calculate their BMI.
The researchers found that the pickiest children were more likely to report eating fewer fruits and vegetables than those who were not as picky as the children.
However, being a picky eater in childhood was not associated with greater intake of soft drinks or snacks in adulthood.
Regarding BMI, the experts found that while children who were not picky eaters were more likely to have a healthy score later in life, children who were picky eaters were not significantly more likely to be underweight or overweight. .
Experts theorized that picky eaters in children are more likely to become picky eaters in adults, leaving them with a “low-quality dietary intake.”
However, they added that more research is needed, as they repeated the scoring test for adults.
They also recommended that the study be replicated with more participants to obtain a larger sample size for BMI readings.
But they still said the findings showed the value of interventions in children’s eating habits to try to get them to eat new and different foods.
“Childhood picky eating is associated with lower frequency of intake of various healthy foods among young adults,” they wrote.
“Therefore, it is recommended to give young children sufficient attention at mealtime,” the study authors concluded.
The authors added that another limitation of their study is that it did not take into account the size of food portions consumed by adults, which may have influenced the results.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS.
• Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Base meals are based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole grain crackers, 2 thick slices of whole wheat bread, and one large baked potato with skin.
• Eat some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) by choosing low-fat, low-sugar options.
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish each week, one of which should be fatty).
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume them in small amounts
• Drink 6 to 8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should consume less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day.
Fountain: NHS Eatwell Guide