Food and Behaviour Research

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How to Improve Eating Behaviour during Early Childhood

Green RJ, Samy G, Miqdady MS, Salah M, Sleiman R, Abdelrahman HM, Al Haddad F, Reda MM, Lewis H, Ekanem EE9, Vandenplas Y10. (2015) Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2015 Mar 18(1) 1-9 doi: 10.5223/pghn.2015.18.1.1.

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here


Eating behaviour disorder during early childhood is a common pediatric problem. Many terminologies have been used interchangeably to describe this condition, hindering implementation of therapy and confusing a common problem. The definition suggests an eating behaviour which has consequences for family harmony and growth. 

The recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition does not cover the entire spectrum seen by pediatricians. Publications are substantive but level of evidence is most of the time low. 

The purpose of this review is to clarify terminology of eating behaviour problems during early childhood; including benign picky eating, limited diets, sensory food aversion, selective eating, food avoidance emotional disorder, pervasive refusal syndrome, tactile defensiveness, functional dysphagia, neophobia and toddler anorexia. This tool is proposed only to ease the clinical management for child care providers. Diagnostic criteria are set and management tools are suggested. The role of dietary counselling and, where necessary, behavioural therapy is clarified. 

It is hoped that the condition will make its way into mainstream pediatrics to allow these children, and their families, to receive the help they deserve.