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Nutrition Care of Rochester Dietitian Nutritionist

Specializing in the health of women and children.
(585) 563.9000
Many parents describe their child as a picky eater, some being typical picky eaters and some being extreme. These children often struggle to eat enough volume or variety to the point that their eating patterns may result in nutritional deficits or affect growth and psychosocial development.

It is important that your questions and concerns about picky eating are taken seriously by your child’s healthcare provider because these problems can negatively affect growth, social, and emotional development and be a significant source of family conflict. Early support and intervention are important. Picky eating has been linked with more serious mental health concerns, including anxiety. Early childhood feeding conflicts are also associated with an increased risk for eating disorders.
Typical vs Extreme Picky Eating

Diagnosis of picky eating is often challenging it is helpful if parent’s video record a few minutes of a feeding or meal to provide a sense of how mealtimes are going.

Typical picky eating usually involves the following:
  • Often starts around age 15-18 months
  • Usually resolves by about age 5 years
  • Child has favorite foods but can make do with other options
  • Child is upset if not getting a favored food; may whine or fuss briefly
  • Preference for carbohydrates
"Extreme" picky eating is more likely with these characteristics:
  • Beginning with the introduction of solids or earlier
  • Often associated with medical, anatomic, or developmental challenges
  • Child may be inordinately fearful or anxious around new foods
  • Child prefers carbohydrates and may avoid entire food groups, most often vegetables and meats
  • Associated with sensory processing diagnoses, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or autism spectrum disorders
  • More likely to involve deficiencies of nutrients (such as iron), but growth may be normal
Don't be fooled! Even typical eating in young children appears erratic. It is normal for young children to have strong food preferences, prefer carbohydrates, and cry or try to get a parent to serve a favorite food. Please understand that after 12 months of age, as growth slows, intake and appetite can diminish. Young children may eat little for a given meal or snack, but intake tends to even out over the course of a day or a few days.  Parents should seek out guidance to avoid unnecessary worry and inappropriate intervention.

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