There isn’t a scientific definition of a “picky eater,” but most parents are familiar with certain behaviors surrounding their child and food. The good (and the bad) news is that picky eaters are very, very common. There are many healthy kids who still fall into the category of being a picky eater. In this post, I’ll cover some common traits of a typical picky eater as well as a few things that may signal there are other concerns that need to be addressed.
Typical Picky Eating Behavior
For most children, picky eating is simply a phase. It can be frustrating, and there are ways to encourage healthier eating and work gradually towards ending this phase. Your child can be classified as a typical picky eater if most – or all – of these statements are true.
- My child’s diet consists of too much unhealthy food and too little nutritious food.
- My child eats the same favorite foods almost daily.
- My child will only eat a small selection of food.
- My child complains about or downright refuses the food that I serve.
- My child does not get the recommended three to five servings of vegetables a day.
- My child does not eat three square meals plus two snacks each day.
- My child prefers crackers, bread, and noodles made with white flour instead of whole grains.
- My child’s eating patterns change day to day, week to week, or month to month. Sometimes he will go long periods without eating much of anything, and other times he always seems to be hungry.
Picky Eating Behavior
It is important to make the distinction between typical picky eating habits and food issues that can be more significant. There are eating concerns that signal physical or emotional problems that can be improved with the help of medical professionals. If you answer, “no” to a significant number of these questions below, then you should speak with your child’s doctor.
- My child is usually happy.
- My child has plenty of energy.
- My child has bright eyes, clear skin, healthy teeth, and good muscle tone.
- My child’s height and weight is within the normal range according to our health care provider.
- My child urinates four to nine times a day (every two to three hours or so), and she has regular bowel movements that are soft and easy to pass at least once every day or two.
- My child sleeps well, getting ten to twelve hours of sleep at night, plus naps when needed.
- Over the course of a week, my child eats something from each of these food groups: grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats/oils.
As a loving, caring parent, it is normal to worry about your picky eater. It is beneficial to try to get your child to establish more well-balanced eating habits. And it is common to feel guilty when your child refuses to eat well. Be assured that there are many, many other parents in your shoes and by simply taking the time to read this post, you are taking a step to helping your family establish better eating habits.