Is Your Child a Picky Eater? - Promise
Is Your Child a Picky Eater?, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Is Your Child a Picky Eater?

It’s very common for parents to have concerns regarding their child’s eating habits. Picky eating is typical for many children, but parents are always looking for ways to offer new foods and improve their child’s nutrition. Here are some ways to encourage your picky eater to help build a balanced diet.

Is My Child a Picky Eater?

Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders*

Picky Eaters

  • Eat a limited variety of foods, but have around 30 foods they will accept
  • Lose interest in a certain food for a period of time, but accept it again after a few weeks
  • Tolerate a new food on the plate, even if they don’t eat it
  • Eat at least one food from most textures (i.e. crunchy, puree)
  • Able to eat at table with family, even if a separate meal
  • Take in enough calories a day for growth and nutrition
  • Sometimes reported by parent as “picky eater” at well-child check ups

Problem Feeders

  • Have a very limited list of accepted foods, usually less than 30
  • Foods that are “lost” are never successfully re-added to diet
  • Have a meltdown at the sight or smell of a new food item – cannot tolerate on plate
  • Do not eat entire texture or food groups
  • Often eat different foods from the family AND often eat alone, usually due to difficulty seeing/smelling other foods family is eating
  • Poor weight gain
  • Persistently reported by parent as a “picky eater” across multiple well-child check ups

What Can You Do?

The Three E’s

  • Expose! Present a variety of foods, especially those enjoyed at the family table. They don’t have to eat it, just become familiar with it.
  • Explore! Encourage food exploration outside of mealtimes. Messes are okay!
  • Expand! Think of new ways to introduce a preferred food by expanding beyond typical family meals. Go grocery shopping together! Kids may be more likely to try a new food if they helped to prepare it.

 Points to Remember

  • Keep portion sizes small for new foods
  • Don’t be a short order cook
  • Don’t get discouraged. Remember that it may take several tries before your child will accept a new food
  • Limit snacks between meals
  • Use hunger as your ally
  • Keep mealtimes positive!

If you still have concerns about your picky eater, talk to your pediatrician. Your child may benefit from an oral feeding evaluation.

This article was co-written by Michele Innes, RD, LDN a registered dietitian and Michelle A. Troise, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.

*(Toomey, 2010)

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