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Picky eater or problem feeder?

Published in Pediatrics Author: CentraCare

Do mealtimes become battles? You are not alone. About 25 percent of normally developing children have food issues at some point. But how do you know if you have a picky eater or a more serious problem?

Picky eaters will eat at least 30 different foods. Problem feeders will eat less than 20. Picky eaters may be reluctant to try new food on their plate but problem feeders often will often have a meltdown when presented with new foods.

With coaching, picky eaters may come around to eat a food outside of their usual repertoire. A problem feeder will not respond to hunger cues with the options outside of their “accepted” foods. Problem feeders will go on a food “strike” — even if it results in dehydration and malnutrition.

If you are concerned that your child is a problem feeder, talk to your health care provider. Your child may have a sensory issue or other medical concern causing the problem. Pediatric Rehabilitation uses a multidisciplinary approach to help evaluate children with feeding problems and develop strategies for dealing with those issues. The goal is to provide children with the skills they need to make them more comfortable at mealtimes — whether they’re at home or elsewhere.

Tips for picky eaters

  1. Go shopping. Encourage your child to select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods when you are grocery shopping.
  2. Get cooking. Have your little chef assist with meal preparation.
  3. Be routine. Set consistent meal and snack times. Sit with your child during meals.
  4. Have fun. Serve multiple dips to try with new vegetables. Put fruit on a kabob skewer.
  5. Be creative. Cut food into fun shapes. Create a design on the child’s plate.
  6. Play with your food. Ask your child questions about new foods. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? Be a food scientist!
  7. Close the restaurant. You are not a short-order cook. Serve at least one food that you know your child will eat with each meal or snack.