What is extreme picky eating and how is it different from average picky eating? Learn what red flags to look out for in your child…
Doesn’t it seem like everybody has at least one picky eater at home? It is a pretty pervasive problem for parents, but are all picky eaters the same? Surprisingly, no, not at all. See, picky eating is like a spectrum, we all fall somewhere on this spectrum, that has adventurous eating on one end and extremely picky eating on the other. But, there is a lot of gray in the middle. Those middle of the road picky eaters, tend to outgrow or move past picky eating with some consistent structure and routine at mealtime.
But, the kiddo’s that fall at the far end of the eating spectrum, the really extreme picky eaters, they are in a category all their own (possibly with diagnosis of Pediatric Feeding Disorder). I wrote about this first a few years ago in, When Has Picky Eating Gone Too Far? I thought it was important to re-visit this again because I continue to see people lumping all picky eaters into the same boat. And, the distinction matters, if your child is an extreme picky eater versus an “average” picky eater because the extreme picky eaters often really struggle with food throughout their whole childhood and sometimes as adults. On top of that, extra and different strategies may be needed for the really severe picky eaters.
Jeez, did I just overwhelm you??? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, because I’m going to tell you exactly what extreme picky eating red flags you need to look for below. PLUS, I have an amazing and free opportunity for you to learn the 3 MOST IMPORTANT strategies you can use in YOUR home to actually turn picky eating around. And, guess what? These strategies are totally and absolutely necessary for average picky eaters AND extreme picky eaters, so no matter where your child falls on this extreme picky eating spectrum, you won’t want to miss the FREE and LIVE 1 hour workshop I’m going to be doing next week. That’s right, I’ll be live, teaching YOU how to overcome your child’s picky eating, and it is open to one and all!
To get into the 3 Keys to Finally Turn Your Picky Eater Around workshop, sign up here and I’ll save your seat!!!
Write down any questions you have for me because you’ll be able to ask me LIVE at the end of the workshop anything I might not have covered. Go sign up and come back here to read about the 10 Red Flags, it will only take a minute!
10 Extreme Picky Eating Red Flags
If 3 or more of the following apply to your child, they are definitely leaning into extreme picky eating. If they have 5 or more, they would most likely be considered an extreme picky eater, and would benefit from specific strategies and/or additional help (I’ll give you the three most important ones in the workshop!)
1. Gags or even throws up at the sight, smell, touch, or taste of some foods.
2. Common picky eating strategies like the “just take a bite” rule don’t work.
3. Your child has meltdowns or major tantrums when they are encouraged to eat or interact with a new food or one they don’t typically eat.
4. Insists foods be prepared a certain way, and becomes very upset if the food is different from the way it is usually given to them (i.e.: will only certain brands, flavors, shapes, or colors.) This is actually a “thing,” and feeding therapists call it a food jag. Head over to the guide for food jags to learn more.
5. You believe your child would actually starve or be hospitalized before they actually ate a new or different food.
6. Has less than 20 foods total in their diet, and sometimes even less than 5.
7. Is unable to eat the rest of what the family is eating at meals because their diet is so limited.
8. Will only eat when distracted by a tablet, the TV, toys, books, or even parents singing or telling stories.
9. Will only eat if they are physically fed by someone else and refuse to feed themselves, even though they are old enough and capable of feeding themselves.
10. Unable to eat foods in social settings like birthday parties and sleep-overs because they must have their food prepared in a certain way. This will cause anxiety in older children.
Can Picky Eating Get Worse?
Yes, it definitely can. In fact, many extreme or severe picky eaters start off as “average picky eaters”, and because parents aren’t sure what to do (no judgement, its can be hard to find solutions), the problem can become worse and worse having a snowball effect. The good news is that in these instances, it can be prevented, but you need a plan.
A great starting place is showing up for the free live 3 Keys to Turn Your Picky Eater Around Workshop because I’m going to go over my basic plan with you in person. You will learn so much more. Make sure you get a seat!
I also want to mention that without those basic picky eating strategies in place, even extreme picky eating can get worse, even when you think it can’t. It’s very common for a child that has only 10 foods they eat to suddenly start to refuse one of their old tried and true favorites, to seemingly never eat it again. Of course, this isn’t all doom and gloom though because there is a way out of it, and I’ve seen dozens of kids do just that with the right strategies.
You can do this for your child, too! It is possible, truly, as I know from personal experience, as well. Besides being a pediatric OT that specializes in feeding, I’m also a mom to three boys, one of which was an extreme picky eater. I totally get the struggle, stress, and pressure parents feel when their kid doesn’t eat. If you’re new here, and you’ve already signed up for the workshop, poke around in the menu bar and side bar to find lots more tips, tricks, and strategies for picky eating!
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Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 14 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.