Parents of young children know the struggle of having a picky eater all too well and the situation becomes increasingly difficult if the child is a "whiteatarian."
HuffPo defines a "whiteatarian" as someone who only eats white foods -- think plain pasta with butter -- and goes out of their way to avoid colorful fruits and vegetables.
So how can a parent help a child get past only wanting white foods and begin enjoying colorful food options they need to be eating for a healthy diet. HuffPo shares suggestions and things to remember when dealing with a picky white-food-only little one.
Food Preferences Change Based On Age
According to the National Institutes of Health, infants have an “innate preference for sweet and salty tastes and tend to reject sour and bitter tastes.” And when a child turns 1 it can get even tougher to expand their tastes. Pediatric occupational therapist and picky eater expert Alisha Grogan tells HuffPo, "After the age of 1, vegetables begin to taste very bitter to children. When humans had to forage in the wild, children’s sensitive taste buds prevented them from eating anything poisonous.” Only wanting to eat white foods may also be based on control and wanting to feel happy, says pediatrician Dina Kulik. “Toddlerhood is when many kids start to exert their autonomy and push boundaries with parents,” she notes. "Simple sugars are easy to eat, they taste good and they provide a quick dopamine hit, much like other stimulating drugs."
Is a "Whiteatarian" Diet Unhealthy?
HuffPo notes there is the possibility of developing a deficiency in iron, vitamin D, calcium, and B12 if a child will only eat white foods, but parents of kids who won't eat the rainbow should not freak out too much. “Many kids can survive on white carbs alone, as long as they’re eating enough of them,” Grogan explains. “Carbs often are fortified with all sorts of vitamins and nutrition. However, depending on how limited a child’s diet is, they could have some nutritional deficiencies.”
Tips, Strategies, and Ideas Parents Should Be Aware Of
- HuffPo's experts note some kids are picky eaters due to fear and they can be afraid of new textures, choking, or vomiting and suggest not labeling food as "good" and "bad" or "healthy" and "not healthy.” It is also important to remember if an older child is still only eating white foods, it is likely not due to the child acting out or wanting to be difficult.
- Learning to like a new good can take up to 12 instances of trying it. "I suggest not fighting or negotiating,” Dr. Kulik says, explaining one approach could be, “Here’s the plate of food. If you want it, great... If not, don’t start a battle. There is evidence kids need to try a food more than a dozen times to realize they like it. When you simply give in and offer the carbs, they don’t learn to try anything new, and the fear and pickiness persist.”
- HuffPo's pediatric occupational therapist warns, "Short-order cooking and pressuring a child to eat during meals can lengthen the time a child is selective about what color foods they’ll eat.”
- If the child is limiting intake to fewer than 20 foods or exhibiting physical symptoms relating to their limited diet the experts urge parents to speak with their child's doctor to determine if there may be a more serious issue occurring.
- Being a picky eater does not usually last forever, say the experts. “Most children will naturally grow out of fussy eating as they gain more skills and confidence around food," clinical nutritionist Sarah Appleford reassures parents.