When is Picky Eating a Problem?

My child is a picky eater!  Is it a problem?

This comment comes up so often with parents, as many toddlers have strong preferences for the types of food they like and will eat.  With picky eaters, mealtime can easily become a constant battle of the wills between parents and kids. You may feel like they are eating the same thing every day, and you may question if they are getting the nutrients their growing body needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help understand the differences between picky eating and a potential feeding disorder:

  • Does my child eat at least 1-2 items from each food group?
  • Does my child universally reject a certain category of food (i.e. certain color, certain temperature, certain texture)?
  • Do my child’s preferences change over time?
  • If given lots of opportunities, will my child ultimately try the food? If not, will they touch it?
  • How stressful is the situation when a new food is attempted? How strong is the child’s reaction and can they recover and continue with the meal?

The key is to know when you child is acting like most other toddlers, or when the picky eating is more concerning.  The more rigid, inflexible and stressful your child is, the more concerned you should be.  If you think your child may be more than just a picky eater, consider a feeding evaluation with a speech language pathologist.  Mealtime is meant to be fun and enjoyable and just another way for your child to explore the world around them!

Sarah Pifkin Ruger, MS, CCC-SLP

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