A recent University of Michigan study advises parents that pressuring kids eat food they don't like may not be the right idea.
UM's Human Growth and Development group found that while "pressuring kids to eat food they don't like...isn't linked to the behavior or their weight changing," it can cause tension during meal-time and in within the parent-child relationship.
Physician and researcher Julie Lumeng says:
"In a nutshell, we found that over a year of life in toddlerhood, weight remained stable on the growth chart whether they were picky eaters or not. The kids' picky eating also was not very changeable. It stayed the same whether parents pressured their picky eaters or not... As a parent, if you pressure, you need to make sure you're doing it in a way that's good for the relationship with your child."
Appetite researchers also advise parents to be mindful when using terms like 'picky', which can carry a negative connotation. Words like 'choosy' and 'selective' may be put the child more at ease and not feel insecure about their appetite preferences.
So, just how important is picky eating? UM researchers say picky eating is rarely associated with nutrient deficiencies or poor growth, so it's not a "serious behavior flaw that parents should expend lots of energy to eliminate."