Picky Eaters & Eating Problems
It is stressful to have a child who is a picky eater. All you want is for your child to eat, grow and be healthy. When your child refuses to eat their food, family mealtimes can turn into power struggles or a full on battles. Sometimes parents cope by preparing two different meals - one family meal and an entirely separate meal just for their picky eater. At times, parents turn into "on-demand" chefs - instantly cooking whatever their child says they will eat. You love your child and will do anything to get them to eat.
Eating Problems Are Not Uncommon!
Multiple prevalence studies have been completed around the world to investigate the prevalence of feeding problems. These studies suggest that 25-33% of children between 0-10 years old will experience feeding and/or growth problems (Toomey, K., 2021). Picky eating is even more common. Picky eating has been found to be prevalent within 15-50% of children (Toomey, K., 2021).
Parents of children who have feeding difficulties often take a "wait and see" approach. Sometimes they even get advice that their child will grow out of their picky eating with time. However, 50-66% of children who experience feeding and/or growth problems will NOT grow out of their picky eating (Toomey, K., 2021). Overall, 5.5% of children will have long term feeding and/or growth problems that are significant and/or persistent (Toomey, K., 2021).
However, 50-66% of children who experience feeding and/or growth problems will NOT grow out of their picky eating (Toomey, K., 2021).
Don't "Wait and See" For Picky Eaters
Here is a Great Test for Picky Eatedevelopmental and hersealth. It is very important for children who have persistent feeding problems to be identified early because it can be dangerous if at-risk children do not get help. The longer children struggle with picky eating and feeding problems, the larger the impact will be on their weight, height and body mass index (Xue et al., 2015). Even if a picky eater is taking the typical amount of calories, there are significant differences in the amount of micronutrients they are eating (Dubois et al., 2007). Lastly, feeding problems are often the first sign of other developmental disorders in children such as autism (Emond et al., 2010) and significant delays in motor, language, and behaviour development (Motion et al., 2001).
Undiagnosed and untreated feeding problems can have significant long term impacts on your child's health, growth and well-being. It's not worth taking the risk and waiting! Getting early support will help your child be the most successful with eating and growing. Next we'll show you a great test for picky eaters to understand if you should be concerned about your child's eating and if professional support is recommended.
Here is a Great Test for Picky Eaters
Feeding Matters is an organization of the world's leading feeding experts. Feeding Matters has developed a questionnaire for parents who are concerned about their children's eating. This picky eaters test evaluates a child's picky eating behaviours and habits based on what is expected for their age.
After you complete this questionnaire you will understand:
If your child is at-risk for health and developmental concerns.
If you need to be worried about your child's picky eating.
If you need professional support for your child's feeding.
Specific areas of concern to discuss with your paediatrician and feeding therapist.
You can either complete the feeding disorders age-based questionnaire online here, or you can complete the Infant and Child Feeding Questionnaire (ICFQ) Screening Tool.
Do I need to be concerned about my child's picky eating?
If you have completed the picky eaters test and 2 or more of your answers are in orange, then yes, you should be concerned. Your child may be at-risk for long-term feeding problems that may significantly impact their health, development and well-being. We recommend that you get an expert opinion about your child's feeding. It is never too early to start supporting your child's feeding development. As well, the feeding difficulties might lead to identifying other developmental disorders or underlying challenges that your child needs support with. Don't "wait and see"!
Professional support might also be helpful if meal-times are stressful, and you find yourself constantly getting into arguments or begging your child to eat. A feeding therapist can share easy and effective strategies that you can implement to shift your family's approach to food. Sometimes changing how we talk and present food can help decrease the negative emotions around eating.
Get help for picky eaters and feeding difficulties: You are not alone!
If your child needs help with eating, you are not alone! There are fantastic feeding therapists and professionals that can guide you to support your child's eating. Here are the steps you can follow:
Book an appointment with your child's paediatrician. Share the results from the feeding questionnaire and screening with them. Inquire about further referrals that may help your child. Feeding difficulties may need to be addressed by multiple professionals as it involves many domains. Your paediatrician can help coordinate the care between multiple professionals.
Find a feeding therapist. Feeding therapists can be speech-language pathologists or occupational therapists who are trained to assess and treat feeding problems. A feeding therapist can also help you understand the specific reasons behind your child's feeding difficulties. There are many underlying factors or combination of factors that can lead to a child refusing to eat. See our post on reasons why a child might be a picky eater: Picky Eating? Reasons Why Your Child Refuses to Eat | Why Picky Eaters are Picky
Get educated. Learn more about paediatric feeding disorders from evidence-based resources. Chatty Therapy has many resources for parents for feeding, speech and language. Click here to read more. Other reputable organizations include: Feeding Matters and SOS Approach to Feeding.
Beyond eating for growth, health and nutrition, food is a rich part of our identity, culture and life. When children don't eat, it impacts the whole family. If you're concerned about your child's eating, completing the Infant and Child Feeding Questionnaire (ICFQ) Screening Tool is a great place to start. The tool will help you understand if further professional support is needed!
Speech, Language, Feeding Therapy in Edmonton, Alberta
Chatty Therapy is based in Edmonton, AB. We have wonderful speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists who support children who are picky eaters or who have feeding difficulties. We also support children and adults with speech and language difficulties. Our feeding therapists can help you understand why your child has difficulty with eating and how to help them. Click here to learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute consultation.
Dubois, L., Farmer, A., Girard, M., Peterson, K., & Tatone-Tokuda, F. (2007). Problem eating behaviors related to social factors and body weight in preschool children: A longitudinal study. The International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 4, 9.
Emond, A., Emmett, P., Steer, C., & Golding, J. (2010). Feeding symptoms, dietary patterns, and growth in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 126(2), e337-342.
Toomey, K. (2021). When Children Won't Eat: Picky Eaters vs Problem Feeders [Online]. SOS Approach to Feeding.
Motion, S., Northstone, K., & Emond, A.M. (2001). Persistent early feeding difficulties and subsequent growth and developmental outcomes. Ambulatory Child Health, 7, 231-237.
Xue, Y., Lee, E. Ning, K., Zheng, Y., Ma, D., Gao, H., Yang, B., Bai, Y., Wang, P., & Zhang, Y. (2015). Prevalence of picky eating behavior in Chinese school-age children and associations with anthropometric parameters and intelligence quotients: A cross-sectional study. Appetite, 91, 248-255.