Childhood food neophobia: how to spot it?

Childhood food neophobia: how to spot it?

Food neophobia is a selective eating disorder, where only a select group of products is consumed. In children, this is manifested first by the refusal to taste even the fear panic to eat what is new. How to spot the symptoms? What are the causes of this aversion to food? To better understand this food phobia, we will discuss the different stages of the disorder as well as the possible causes.

Identify child food neophobia

Food neophobia is a very common problem in children, which usually goes away as they get older. For some, however, this disorder persists until adolescence and there are even adults who have it. It is therefore important to spot the signs neophobia in order to better understand it and try to find solutions.

Symptoms and manifestation of neophobia in the toddler

How to detect lsymptoms of neophobia ? In the baby, this will first manifest itself as difficulties during food diversification. The toddler cries, grimaces and may even spit. In short, he refuses the new tastes and textures that are presented to him during the meal.

Difficulties may also appear or increase during the switch to solid food. Around 2 or 3 years old, it is normal to go through this stage of refusing to taste. However, if after 4 years the child still shows fear or even disgust with certain products, a real phobia of food may be setting in.

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Food neophobia by Doctissimo

Alert points to spot childish food phobia

To identify if your child is likely to suffer from a food phobia, certain alert points should be taken into account:

  • The child prefers certain textures. In particular, it favors smooth aspects and liquids with thick purees and preparations containing pieces (such as yoghurts with pieces of fruit, soups or thick soups, etc.).
  • The child eats only certain food groups and totally or partially excludes the others. For example, he eats only starchy foods and some white meats, but no vegetables or red meat.
  • It only accepts products from certain well-defined brands. He refuses to eat identical foods that simply have a different packaging or origin than those usually eaten.
  • He performs sorting. If several products are mixed on his plate, he rejects the foods he hates. It can even refuse to eat the whole dish if the different products are touching.

These points should alert you if at least two of them are still spotted after 6 or 7 years.

Identify the level of child food neophobia

If the difficulty does not diminish with age, you can quickly find yourself at a loss when it comes to your child. Indeed, without reaching understand reluctance to taste new foods, it is complicated to find a solution.

Before achieving this, it is first important to identify the level of neophobia in the child. Three stages can be differentiated.

Need to taste before eating

Almost 1 in 2 children in kindergarten and at the start of elementary school are in this bracket. As long as it shows openness to new foods, this is usually not a problem in the long run. Even in adulthood, it is normal to have need to taste a new food several times before determining whether you really like it or not.

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It is therefore a normal stage linked to our survival instinct. Human beings are by nature suspicious of unknown food. The fact of tasting before consuming in large quantities prevented our prehistoric ancestors from poisoning.

My child always eats the same thing – La Maison des Maternelles

Significant reluctance to taste: the “little eater” child

When the child experiences significant reluctance to taste new foods, it can become disabling on a daily basis. Invited to friends or to a restaurant, we say of him that he is a ” child who eats nothing “. He grimaces and turns his head away, but will try the new product anyway if he’s very strongly urged to do so.

It is not yet disgust but rather a fear, a afraid to eat what’s new. The “little eater” child generally consumes only a limited amount but does not get enough of the meal. This situation affects around 1 in 3 children.

Categorical refusal to incorporate new foods

At the highest stage, food phobia is installed. In other words, the child emits a categorical refusal to incorporate new foods. If it only consumes certain brands, or certain categories, we can also speak of selective eating disorder.

At this level, the child is likely to sit for hours at the table without touching his plate. He can develop what is like a crisis of panic at the idea of ​​tasting and develop significant symptoms such as nausea and vomiting reflexes. Left untreated, this disorder can last into adolescence and even into adulthood.

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“Food neophobia is not a whim” by Doctissimo

Understanding the fear of tasting and its causes

Understanding the causes of the fear of tasting is complex because there are many of them. They can be as much physical as psychic, but not only.

In general, each person develops their own food selectivity. Some don’t like bitter foods, others hate jelly textures. The environmental, cultural or education factor can come into play here. People in South America and some Asian countries are generally not reluctant to eat hot foods, while Europeans are less accustomed to it.

But either way, if you hate a food, you’ll be able to eat it, even reluctantly. A neophobe will be unable to taste it let alone chew or swallow it.

The cause of neophobia is therefore not only linked to the influence of the environment. We will then speak of oral disorders. In part, these may be physical problems relating to sucking, tongue mobility or chewing. It can also cause hypersensitivity to textures, the appearance of food or even its smell.

Treat the child who eats nothing

Who to consult to “cure” the child who eats nothing? Go to your doctor first, who will refer you to a specialist if necessary. In the event of oral disorders, a speech therapist can provide leads and suggest exercises for your child. It may be about him learn to familiarize yourself with food : accept to feel or touch them for example.

Neophobia still remains little known. Often poorly accepted, it is nevertheless necessary to understand that it is a real eating disorder and not a whim in order to find suitable treatments and solutions.

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