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3/21/23 blog post

when to be concerned about picky eating

boy at the table with broccoli on a fork with a disgusted look on his face

in this article:

Picky eating isn’t just a challenging part of the toddler years. For some teens and adults, picky eating can become extreme—and even harm their health. Picky eating is like a range, and we all fall somewhere on this range. Some will learn to accept more foods with a consistent structure and routinely offering new foods. But the kiddos that fall at the far end of the eating range, the extreme picky eaters, need some extra help. But how do you know if your child is an extreme picky eater?

how to tell if my child has extreme picky eating

If your agree with the following signs, your child is at risk of being an extreme picky eater and would benefit from additional help and you have tried many strategies to help improve your child’s eating habits and nothing seems to be working.

physical signs

  • Gags or even throws up at the sight, smell, touch, or taste of certain foods.
  • Your child only eats specific foods textures or avoids certain textures, such a blended foods, crunchy foods, or smooth foods.
  • You feel your child would actually starve or be hospitalized before they actually ate a new or different food.

developmental signs

  • Has less than 20 foods they will eat.
  • Your child is not making progress with their feeding skills (can’t eat anything past baby foods).

behavioral/emotional signs

  • Your child has meltdowns or major tantrums when they are asked to eat or interact with a new food.
  • Refuses to eat at the table, can not be around foods they won’t eat, or will only eat if they are physically fed by someone else (even though they are old enough and capable of feeding themselves)
  • Unable to eat foods in social settings like birthday parties because of their food limitations
  • Meals have become so stressful that you and your child dread mealtimes.

how to get help

A great starting place is to talk to your pediatrician. Often your primary care provider can assist in basic solutions or help determine if testing or a specialty care evaluation is needed.

If your child has multiple red flags, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with a dietitian expert at Dayton Children’s. During a visit, patients and parents will have the chance to meet with the dietitian for one hour. This allows plenty of time to discuss everything related to the patient’s nutrition needs and work on plans to address their picky eating.

click here to schedule

additional tips!

  • Don’t force foods. Research shows that forcing foods doesn’t make a kid less picky
  • Keep a routine. Make meal and snack times the same every day.
  • Start with small portions. Try one bite at a time.
  • Talk about food in ways other than nutrition (such as smell, texture, shape, color)
  • Practice what you preach. Be a good example so your child sees you eat the same foods you are asking them to try.
  • Make it fun! Try shapes, dips, sprinkles!
  • Get kids involved in meal planning and cooking.

symptom checker

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