Is your child struggling with getting their daily nutrients because they’re a picky eater? As parents “picky eating” is most likely something you’re pretty familiar with. In fact, most infants and toddlers will go through stages of never wanting to eat their carrots and only wanting to eat mac and cheese only for their preference to switch a week later.

But, if your child’s pickiness seems to lean more towards the extreme of the spectrum it could mean intervention may be needed. To help you decide if intervention is needed and how to handle picky eaters, here is picky eating vs. problem feeding and what you can do. 

Traits of a Picky Eater

Picking eating isn’t new and every toddler is different in how many foods they will accept or refuse. But the important thing to keep in mind about picky eating is that it’s a trait that most toddlers grow out of and it’s normally mild enough that it isn’t extremely restrictive. While they may always hate broccoli, they will have hopefully widened their list of acceptable food enough once they’re older to include other things that will satisfy their nutritional needs.

Here are common traits of a child who is simply picky:

  • The child isn’t consistent about what foods are acceptable and what foods aren’t
  • They are able to eat the unacceptable foods when prepared different ways
  • Number of acceptable food list is 20-30 foods
  • Can tolerate new foods on plate
  • Is okay when unacceptable food is eaten by someone else in proximity

Traits of A Food Aversion Disorder or “Problem Feeder” 

  • The aversion to unacceptable foods is so strong that even watching someone else eat the food causes a bad reaction.
  • Number of acceptable foods is less than 15
  • Foods that child likes but becomes tired of eating do not return to their acceptable food list.
  • Will not eat foods from different texture categories like oatmeal, raisins, crackers, etc.

How to manage these traits

When you have a child who is considered picky, it can feel discouraging and can even become frustrating at times. But, there are techniques that are scientifically proven to help, like avoiding the “if you eat this, I’ll give you…”  bargaining scenario that many parents fall into in a desperate attempt to encourage their child to eat their vegetables.

However this method teaches children to overvalue dessert or even resent trying new foods all together. The best way to encourage children to try new foods is by adding them in at meal time, even if it sits on the plate.

Sometimes familiarity can really change how a child feels about a food and if it is always there at dinnertime, they are more likely to try it. For children with a food aversion disorder, the best method is to seek intervention with a speech pathologist or pediatrician to find the best methods to use to help them meet their nutritional needs and slowly increase the foods they will eat.