Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders
A toddler’s food preferences can be very unpredictable and many go through a picky eating phase.
What is a picky eater?
- Eats at least one food from most texture groups e.g crunchy, chewy, mushy, but may not like a variety of food in each group
- Can manage new food on their plate and will try a new food with encouragement
- If a child gets tired of a particular food, it can eventually be reintroduced
What is a problem feeder?
- Eats less than 20 foods
- Progressively phases out foods until their diet becomes extremely limited
- Gags or vomits when eating certain foods
- Refuses particular food textures or colors
- Can’t tolerate being around people eating foods they don’t like
What can I do about picky eating?
- Limit snacks and try serving meals at a consistent time each day. Picky eating can occur if a child fills up on snacks and is not hungry by mealtime.
- Serve new foods alongside familiar foods your child already likes. Let them explore their food through touch, smell, or trying it in small bites.
- Do not bribe or force your child to try a new food. Simply continue serving small portions of it along with familiar foods, and your child may eventually come around and try it.
What can I do about problem feeding?
If you suspect that your child has feeding difficulties beyond picky eating, keep a food journal to track their eating behavior, and bring your observations to your child’s healthcare provider. You may be referred to an occupational therapist or a speech therapist that can help your child discover new and healthy foods and improve their overall nutrition.