Picky Eating: Is It Serious?


Katja J. Rowell, MD; Jenny H. McGlothlin, MS, CCC/SLP


December 24, 2015

Editor's Note: This is the first part of a two-part series discussing the frequently encountered issue of picky eating in young children. This article emphasizes recognition and assessment of these children; the next article will focus on management.

My Child Is a Picky Eater

One in three parents will describe their child as a "picky" eater,[1] with studies suggesting that picky eating is "extreme" or "persistent" roughly 10%-15% of the time (ranging from 3% to 35%).[2,3,4,5] These children often struggle to eat enough volume or variety to the point that their eating patterns may result in nutritional deficits or affect growth and psychosocial development. Many terms have been used to describe persistent or extreme picky eating, including: selective, neophobic, problem feeders, or as suffering from infantile anorexia, feeding disorders, or nonorganic failure to thrive. In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5)[6] added avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) as a diagnosable eating disorder. This quiz will test your knowledge around the origins of these related feeding challenges, red flags for referral, and how you can help parents determine whether their child has typical or more extreme picky eating.


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