When Picky Eating Becomes a Problem

This post is sponsored by ABC Pediatric Therapy.

I'm always looking for help with picky eating so when I heard about ABC Pediatric Therapy, I had about a million questions I wanted to ask! I got the opportunity to chat with two of their therapist, Kerbe ( Occupational Therapist & Feeding ) and Michelle ( Speech Pathologist & Feeding ) and I'm excited to share all that I learned with you!


What is the difference between a picky eater & a problem feeder?

The first thing to look at is their age. Are they be old enough to tolerate different textures? By 2-3 years old they should be able to tolerate and even interact with every form of food in every food group. Next, look at what food group is lacking. What is limiting the child? Such as, are they not trying it because it's not Kraft Mac & Cheese. If strategies that you can try at home aren't working, there may be a bigger issue. As long as your child eats about 30 different foods, with a few coming from each food group, they are probably a picky eater. If they are eating 20 different foods or less or are omitting entire food groups, they are likely a problem feeder. When children are problem feeders you get more into issues of nutritional factors and vitamins & minerals.

Looking at oral motor, the child's bite is a big indicator. Can they move food from side to side in their mouth? Some kids can get food stuck in their cheeks or lodged in the roof of their mouth because they can't get it back out. The child might not dislike the food, they just don't have the muscle needed to move it around. Children who experience these issues might just not eat certain things because they lack the muscle strength and endurance to chew it.


What can we do to try and prevent picky eating?

Play, play, play with your food! Make a mess! It can be hard for parents to understand that chewing and actually swallowing food is the last step in eating. Let them experience food with their other senses. Find ways to have them explore food through touch, smell, sight and don't worry about eating. It doesn't need to be when they're at the table or at a meal time. Don't make feeding time forceful and pressure them to eat food. When are you are at the table for meal time, make sure it is known that it is time to sit as a family and eat with no distractions. Turn off the tv, no toys, wait to serve the meal until you can sit down together and eat. Make it pretty and make it fun!

Embrace the mess! No need to wipe off their faces constantly. That mess can be another chance for them to taste that food to get a repeated exposure. Involve your kids in meal preparation. They can see how the food is made, be a part of the process, feel the food or maybe even taste a bite. Don't hide what is in their food so you can build that trust with them.


What is the best way to introducing solids for babies?

There is a huge benefit to starting them young on purees for the texture. It helps them to develop the ability to control that food in their mouth. After they have the control for purees you could move onto soft table foods. You can help them learn munching by trying to get the child to put the food on their molar area.

For older kids and trying to foods, remind them that not every banana tastes the same so they should keep trying it to see if they do actually like a food. Try a 20 bite rule where they can't say they don't like a food without trying it at least twenty times before making the decision. Remember, that sometimes we just don't like certain foods and that is okay too. Once they try a food 20 times, have them pick another food in the same food group to try. Have them to go the grocery store and help pick out something new to try. Make it fun and a challenge!


What cups are best to use when we have weaned babies?

Start introducing cups and straws around 6-9 months old. They might not know what to do but it gets them exposed. Children should be off of bottles at 12 months. Open cups are really important to help them develop the more mature muscle movement. Sippy cups aren't a great option and can even impact speech later on.

When using an open up you only need to put a little bit in at a time and you will be helping them. The Miracle 360 cup is popular but it's still not the same as using an open cup.


Sometimes picky eating & problem feeding can mean there are more underlying things going on. Keep an eye on your child's other activities, are they always falling or need constant touch. You can get a free screening on the ABC Pediatric Therapy site or call to schedule to get an evaluation. Talk to your pediatrician about any concerns and they will be able to refer you to get the proper help for your child.


Watch the full live video here!