Feeding children is hard. It can feel defeating or disheartening sometimes. We are all bombarded by information (or misinformation) and unrealistic ideas about food and nutrition from social media, television, friends, and family. We have endless choices in the stores. We have work, school, plus other activities. Sometimes it feels like there’s no time to sit down to a meal, never mind cooking a meal. All of these are intensified when there is a picky or fussy eater in the home. You might feel like you’re the only one going through this, but know that you are not alone. Picky eating is common. A recent meta-analysis of picky eating in children over 30 months of age estimated the prevalence to be 22%, meaning over 1/5 of families are experiencing this. Registered Dietitians, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists can help you make sense of it all. At Amenta Nutrition, April and I support you with feeding your child without fear and guilt. We provide assistance to maximize your child’s health and growth, prevent unhealthy eating, and encourage positive feelings about food that can last a lifetime.
Picky eating can look different depending on the child, there are several classifications or kinds of picky eating, and there is a wide range in their severity. Here are some of the most common types:
1. Supertasters can sense bitterness and other flavors more intensely, while Nontasters have fewer taste buds and, thus, less able to taste.
2. Problem Feeders eat less than 20 foods, drop foods without adding others, eat different foods from the rest of the family, avoid entire food groups, or are upset around new foods.
3. Food Aversion can arise after an unpleasant experience such as illness, trauma, or choking, resulting in generalized fear or anxiety around food. A child may have Food Neophobia fearing new foods with extremely negative reactions to those new foods.
4. Sensory Feeders have processing difficulties, where external inputs from the environment seem very intense or barely register. These children’s food preferences may be influenced by taste, texture, temperature, or smell. Foods with mixed textures like spaghetti with meat sauce can be extremely irritating, while smooth foods might not provide enough input and be disorienting. They may gag, spit-up, or even vomit with certain textures and learn over time that eating hurts and will avoid mealtime.
5. ARFID, Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Those with ARFID may attribute their eating pattern to sensory issues, food neophobia, or food aversions; however, ARFID results in significant negative consequences such as nutritional deficiencies, growth fall-off or extreme weight loss, reliance on tube feeding or nutritional supplements, or psychosocial impairment.
Christine Randazzo Kirschner
Christine Randazzo Kirschner, MS, RDN, CDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, New York State licensed Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist and the co-founder of Amenta Nutrition where she provides evidence-based nutrition counseling to both individuals and companies. While she helps clients with various health concerns, Christine’s main focus is on digestive disorders, pediatric nutrition and weight management. She assists clients manage their belly discomfort by optimizing their gut health, she helps parents manage picky eaters, and she curates personalized weight management (whether loss or gain) plans that are safe and sustainable. She defies one-size-fits-all philosophies and offers a simple, practical, and judgement-free approach to eating.