Mirna Sabbagh - Adult and Child Nutritionist in Dubai discusses Picky Eating
Mirna Sabbagh, an adult and child dietitian, nutritionist, and lactation consultant. She also has several digital courses: breastfeeding course, starting solids 6-12 months course, feed with confidence course for ages 1 to 7 years, and also Pregnancy Nutrition Course, that you can sign up for from the comfort of your home.
The courses are pre-recorded. As soon as you make the course purchase, you will receive a link to watch the course from your phone or laptop.
You can also e-mail Mirna for questions on email@example.com
50% of my patients are picky eaters. Also 80% of my conversations with mothers are about picky eating! It seems like picky eating is the new pandemic. Picky eating is an area a handful of experts in the region work on because the reasons behind picky eating are many and hard to figure out and it is different for each child. It could be medical, psychological, behavioral, parenting related, food related and so much more! Some days picky eating can be solved with one expert and sometimes it takes a handful of experts.
I help parents figure out the reasons behind their child's picky eating in my picky eating consultations and I also discuss picky eating reasons and solutions in my child nutrition course that you can sign up to and it would be a GREAT start to understand if your child's picky eating is normal and easily solvable or needs additional support.
Before we discuss reasons for picky eating, I would like you to know that many times parents "think" their child is underweight or not eating enough, when in fact, they are! You would be surprised how many times parents were shocked when I informed them their child is healthy and not underweight. Or when I told parents 1 cup of food is GREAT and your child shouldn't be eating 2 cups of food for example. So, before we go into this article, I would like you to first check if your child is actually underweight or not or overweight.
If your child is NOT underweight then it does not mean we do not have to improve their eating behaviors, however, it does mean we can worry less and focus on the topic positively. If your child is a picky eater but is overweight then also note this is very common and not difficult to solve. If your child is underweight, then it may be slightly more difficult to solve.
Let me give you an example of possible causes of picky eating:
1. Medical Conditions:
Medical conditions are a huge driver behind picky eating. Issues like vitamin deficiencies especially Vitamin B12 and Iron can cause low appetite. Food intolerances or celiac disease can also be gigantic drivers behind picky eating. Those issues must be excluded first. We may do an elimination diet or request blood tests from their doctor.
2. Sensory Processing Disorders OR Swallowing Difficulty:
Many times children do not eat because they have an issue with textures. This is very common. As a dietitian I can help you with exercises to improve your child's handling of textures and different foods. In some cases I have had children going from purely purees to all different textures. In other instances we had to work with a sensory processing expert to help.
In addition, some children may have real swallowing difficulty and need support from an SLP to help them with their swallowing issues.
3. Behavioral issues:
Many times children act out when it comes to food as a reaction to other things during the day. They may be demanding their parents attention, it may be their way for putting their foot down, or maybe they are developing their stubborn characteristics. It may even be a rebellion against the parents approach. I for one had to take ALOT of parenting courses and psychology courses to learn how to properly handle parenting my son. I help parents solve basic behavioral issues that are there that I have learned from other parents. Many times my help on it's own is enough during consultations. However, in some cases, we will need the support of a parenting expert or even a psychologist. If you would like a recommendation please e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Food related issues:
MANY food related issues can cause picky eating. The lack of schedule, too many calories throughout the day, lack of sleep, the type of food, the food approach. There are hundreds of reasons. All of which I can help you with upon understanding your case better.
What do I do as part of my picky eating consultation for children?
Depending on the reasons discovered for picky eating I would then develop a strategy with the parents to solve the issue. Depending on the case the strategy might be short term (2 to 3 consultations) or long term (5-7 consultations) and it may or may not need additional experts such as a gastrointestinal doctor, parenting expert, ect.
The first consultation is usually for the parents only and the child does not need to be there. We discuss:
1. Rules of a non-picky eating home
2. Food changes recommended
3. Behavioral approaches recommended
4. Supplements recommended if need be or doctor visits needed.
5. Sensory activity needed
We then start to follow up closely on a weekly basis until the child is eating everything.
If your child's case is mild, I HIGHLY recommend getting the child nutrition course first. It is 2.5 hours worth of videos and includes a huge part on picky eating.
I discussed ways to prevent picky eating in the below interview with LBC.