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Watch out for 8 Signs of Picky Eating

1. \”I\’m not eating that!\”

Picky eating is extremely common, with up to half of kids aged 2-6 showing signs of pickiness at some point. One of the most common forms of picky eating is simple food refusal, with toddlers and babies pushing food away, spitting it out, or throwing it off their trays and plates. This is especially true for vegetables, which are naturally more bitter than some milder foods. The key is to keep offering foods—research shows it can take up to 15 exposures before a child will accept a new food.

2. Refusing old favorites

With children, each day is different than the last. On one day, your toddler might accept apple sauce or carrots, only to angrily refuse the same foods the next day. This is very normal and not something to be alarmed about. Just continue to offer previously accepted foods and don’t become emotional or angry about it.

3. The stuck-in-a-rut child

Does your child request (and happily eat) the same meal every single day? This form of picking eating is called a “food jag” and is a very common form of picky eating. It’s okay to let your toddler eat foods he or she enjoys, but continuing to offer varied and different foods from all the food groups will eventually encourage experimentation.

4. Won\’t try anything new

This is closely related to the “food rut” and occurs when your child simply refuses to try anything new. This is very common. Once again, just keep presenting new flavors and textures. Eventually, most children will become a little adventurous and try something new. Try to avoid “hiding” new foods in things they already know and like—that can sow mistrust at mealtime.

5. Extreme fussiness

Fussiness—crying, throwing food and silverware, turning over bowls—is another sign of pickiness. It’s okay to continue offering food, but if your child is extremely fussy, don’t try to force him or her to eat. Instead, wait it out until they are hungry enough to be motivated to eat. Setting up a power struggle at the table is never a good idea.

6. Disinterest in food

With toys waiting in the playroom and perhaps a pet to pay attention to, sitting at the table for a bite to eat may not seem so appealing to your infant or toddler. Some kids are only interested in eating when hunger kicks in and when their favorite foods are on the menu. Still, it’s always a good idea to include your infant or toddler in the family mealtime, even if they are thinking about other things and not really interested in eating.

7. Hardly touching their food

Never a clean plate for a picky eater. This type of eater often leaves leftovers on the plate. This habit may affect weight but typically only for a short period without any serious impact on their growth. Many parents overestimate how much food their infant or toddler should be eating, so if your toddler fits this mold, don’t force food on him or her.

8. Slow eater

Does it seem like your infant or toddler takes forever to eat a simple meal? Are you waiting at the table long after everyone else is done for your child to get that last bite of food down? It can be difficult, but you want to look for the right balance between giving your child space to control their own mealtime and encouraging actively eating. In general, if a meal lasts more than about 25 minutes, it’s a good idea to focus on the next meal.


  • Castle JL and Jacobsen MT. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, 2013.
    Eating Behavior. Picky eating during childhood.

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