Education Blog

This Picky Eater Test Separates Problem Eaters from Typical Kids

September 21, 2021

Most parents struggle to get their children to eat well at meals. It can be difficult to determine if your child is experiencing more severe struggles than others. How can you tell if your child needs medical intervention or if you are able to rely on the support of other parents? Parents might find clarity in the picky-eater test.

What is a picky eater test?

Dr. Leah Alexander, a pediatrician, says that picky eating behavior is normal for children between the ages of 15 and almost four years. If they are picky eaters and not problem feeders, then you will be experiencing a common struggle. She explains that some of this is normal for toddlers. They aren’t as hungry and don’t require as many calories to properly grow and gain weight.

Dr. Alexander warns children that pickingy eating can lead to obesity as early as four years of age. She says, “Between what foods are eaten and how often they are eaten, I see many obesity cases and dental problems.” “Most older children who are picky about food eat carb-heavy diets. They are more likely to snack on low-fiber and protein foods, which makes it difficult for them to sit down to eat.

Healthcare providers will look at seven factors to help determine if a child has a problem eating pattern or is picky.

  • Number of foods that are consumed regularly when presented. A picky eater may eat more than 30 foods a day, while a problem eater might eat less than 20.
  • How a child’s food preferences are changing. A problem eater will not eat food that has been taken out of their diet for at least two weeks.
  • Ability to eat food from different textures and nutritional groups. People who are problem feeders may reject whole categories of food because they don’t like the texture or nutrition group. Picky eaters will only eat one food from each of the nutrition and texture groups.
  • Tolerance for new food: While some people can tolerate new foods, others will become irritable.
  • Ability to eat the same foods as the rest. A problem eater will almost always choose a different food set than their family. They may eat at a different time or place than the rest of their family.
  • How long it has been since the parents reported that their child was picky. Parents should report that their child is picky at all times to multiple well-child visits.
  • Ability to learn to consume new foods. To learn to eat new food, problem feeders must complete more than 25 Steps to Eating Hierarchy steps.

Dr. Alexander says that children with autism, speech delays or other sensory problems often have difficulty feeding. She says that oral sensitivity issues such as difficulty brushing teeth or difficulties with certain textures are usually detected in the toddler years. It can then carry over to grade school with picky eating.

What can I do if my kid is a picky eater?

Parents should first evaluate their eating habits and attitudes towards food; and then determine if the child requires a Picky Eater Test. Dr. Alexander says that children are more likely to eat healthy food; and if their parents have a wide variety of foods. These kids are more likely to try different foods even if they’re in a picky eating phase; or have refused to eat certain foods for a while. Their diet is more varied and balanced than those of other children.

It’s not an easy task to increase a child’s dietary repertoire. It is very rare for a child not to go through a phase of pickiness. It is possible to have success with your child if you are patient and persistent. Dr. Alexander advises that parents should not make it a battle with toddlers who are prone to tantrums or testing boundaries. “They will push back and become more assertive, which can lead to a vicious cycle of unpleasing meals.”

Alexander recommends waiting for a few weeks before introducing food that your child may have rejected previously. This is because one of the Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeder tests determines whether a child will be more open to trying new foods after a break. A picky eater might feel different about the food after seeing it again. Or they may be more open to trying it. Don’t lose heart if your first attempt fails.