picky vs. problem eating in toddlers

picky eating tips


Any parent of a toddler can tell you that almost all children go through a picky eating phase. Those peas and carrots your  1-year- old practically begged for are now your 3-year-old’s worst enemy. While this kind of occasional pickiness is normal, if your child’s eating habits are interfering with them receiving proper nutrition, it could be a sign of a larger issue.

Typical Pickiness:

  • Eats at least one food from most food texture groups (crunchy, chewy, mushy etc)
  • Can deal with new food on their plate and will try a new food with some prodding
  • If they get burned out on a type of food, it can eventually be reintroduced

Dealing with pickiness:

  • Create a food routine. Try to serve meals at a consistent time each day with a limited number of snacks throughout the day. Pickiness can result from children over-snacking and not being hungry at mealtime.
  • Serve new foods with familiar foods that your child already likes. Allow them to explore by smelling or taking tiny bites.
  • Don’t bribe or force your child to eat a new food. If you keep serving small portions along with familiar foods, chances are your child will come around to trying it eventually.

Signs of a feeding issue:

  • Eats less than 20 foods
  • Progressively phases out foods to the point that their diet becomes extremely limited
  • Gags or vomits when eating certain foods
  • Refuses certain food textures or colors
  • Can’t tolerate being around people eating foods they don’t like

Dealing with problem eating:

If you think your child may have a problem eating issue, keep a food journal to track your child’s eating behavior for at least a week or two. Bring the journal to your child’s pediatrician. They can refer you to an occupational or speech therapist who can help your child improve their overall nutrition as well as their ability to appropriately deal with new foods and textures.

Oh and two great tricks, (with the links of how we did it), that the Chai Mommas found works with pickiness and makes healthy eating fun are:

Thank you for this great info Pathways.org! For even more communication and general child development resources, check out www.pathways.org or email friends@pathways.org. Pathways.org is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization.

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