Could My Picky Eater Have a Feeding Disorder?

If you have a picky eater, you’ve probably experienced some stressful mealtimes.

If you have a picky eater, you’ve probably experienced some stressful mealtimes. Trying to accommodate or change your child’s eating habits can be both frustrating and exhausting. But how can you tell if what you’re dealing with is just a finicky eater, a temperamental phase, or a feeding disorder related to a medical or developmental issue?

Observing your child in various eating situations is a good place to start, says Keri Nagib, clinical specialist at the Feeding Difficulties Center at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. And, if your child is able, follow that up by talking with them about the foods they like and don’t like.

Behaviors to Look for

Common characteristics of a picky eater include:

  • Eating a self-limited number of foods, but a variety of textures and food groups
  • Refusing to eat a previously accepted food, only to re-accept it later
  • Trying new or less-preferred foods with prompting
  • Accepting preferred foods despite brand or how the food looks

But if your child will eat only a very limited number of foods, refuses different food brands, shapes or colors, or is not progressing past certain food types and textures, Nagib suggests talking with your pediatrician.

What Are the Causes?

“Eating difficulties could be due to physical, oral-motor or behavioral issues. Your pediatrician may refer your child for further evaluation to determine if there are any underlying problems,” says Nagib.

Some of those root causes include food allergies, physical abnormalities, autism and genetic, gastrointestinal or neurological disorders. If left untreated, feeding disorders can progress to increased developmental delays, behavioral disorders and poor growth.

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