How much of a picky eater is your child? Should you be worried? Take this picky eating test to find out!
Do you think you have a picky eater? And, if so how much of a picky eater are they? Should you be worried? Will they just grow out of it?
As an occupational therapist that specializes in picky eating, those are all questions I’ve heard a lot, and I bet that you have them too. Because let’s face it, it’s not the kind of thing that you can look up in the dictionary and doctor’s responses are all over the place. And, they usually aren’t worried unless there is a weight issue – meaning a child isn’t growing as much as they should be.
I’m going to clear the air, and with this simple picky eating test, you can find out everything you need to know about how most feeding specialists determine if a child is in fact a picky eater and how bad that picky eating is!
But, There is a Lot of Gray Area…
…When it comes to picky eating. The questions below target the most common red flags I see, and are based on research in the field of feeding from folks like Ellyn Satter and Kay Toomey. There are many other, more unique signs though as well. Think of the results as a general ball park target that will give you a good starting place for what you can do next to help your child eat well.
And, at the end of this quiz you’ll find a way to get a print out so that you can share the results with spouses, family, and doctors! Keep a look out for how to get those delivered to your inbox.
The Picky Eating Test
This picky eating test is specifically designed for kids and toddlers from 15 months old through early teens. However, it will apply to older teens and adults as well. To take the picky eating test, you’re going to read the questions below and keep track of how many yes responses you have to the questions. Each time you answer “yes” you’ll give yourself a score of 1. Each time you answer “no”, it’s a score of zero.
For example, if you answer yes to 5 questions and no to 3 your total score at the end is 5.
Take your time to answer the questions and look for the results and how to get your print out at the end. (Remember Yes = 1 and No = 0)
Question #1: Does your child eat less than 30 foods?
Question #2: Does your child eat less than 20 foods?
Question #3: Does your child eat less than 10 foods?
Question #4: Does your child refuse to eat all types of vegetables?
Question #5: Does your child refuse to eat any type of meat or protein? (not due to a desire to be vegetarian)
Question #6: 6 Does your child refuse to eat any fruit?
Question #7: (Only for children 2 years of age and older): Do you have to physically feed your child for them to eat any food?
Question #8: Will your child only eat with the distraction of a tablet, TV, toys, books, etc.?
Question #9: Does your child gag, cry, throw food, or vomit when they’re asked to eat a new or different food? (i.e.: when the food is placed on their plate)
Question #10: Does your child gag, cry, throw food, or vomit when they see a new or different food? (i.e.: They witness someone else eating a food, see in a restaurant, or from across the room)
Question #11: Does it feel very stressful to provide your child with a variety of foods at meals throughout the day?
Question #12: Does your child tend to eat only one texture of food, such as crunchy or soft foods only?
Question #13: Does your child tend to eat only 1-2 colors of foods, such as white, yellow, or beige?
Question #14: Does your child never seem interested in eating or appears to have no appetite at all?
Question #15: 15. Does your child require food that’s different from the what the rest of the family is eating at meals?
Question #16: Are birthday parties and holiday meals stressful for you or your child because they are limited in the type of foods they eat?
Question #17: Do one or more of your child’s foods have to be a specific brand or prepared just right or they’ll refuse to eat them? (i.e.: your child will only eat the Purdue Buttermilk Extra Crispy chicken nuggets, but won’t eat any other type of chicken nuggets.)
Question #18: Does your child have a food they used to eat everyday that they now hate and will no longer eat?
The Picky Eating Test Results
If you haven’t already, count up all the yes responses you had and get your total number. Look at the four different categories below and find the range that your number fits into!
Type #1: The Typical Eater (0-2 points)
Your child is showing natural preferences if they’re eating at least some types of foods from all the food groups and have more than 30-40 foods in their diet. It’s also a great sign if they willingly try new foods, even if they don’t continue to eat them. It takes the average child 12-15 times of trying a food before they know if they like it or not.
It’s also common for kids to shy away from vegetables, in fact, they’re predisposed to do so because of the bitter taste. And, children’s taste buds are much more sensitive than ours. Many American kids are also sensitive to spicy or strong flavors.
In other cultures, such as Indian, children are often consistently exposed to spicy foods while in-utero and through breast milk. In this case, they may tolerate and even prefer these strong seasonings.
How to help The Typical Eater continue to eat well: Eat together as a family and cook together too. Avoid labeling food bad or forcing your child to try anything that they aren’t feeling. Your child is eating well, keep up more of what you’re already doing, but always be on the lookout for signs of increasing pickiness
Type #2: The Average Picky Eater (3-5 points)
If you scored in this range, then your child is most likely an average picky eater, showing some strong preferences and possibly ignoring a food group. Most children go through a picky eating stage between 1 and 5 years old and naturally grow out of it as long they are given a variety of foods. Making special meals for the average picky eater can cause eating to snowball into extreme picky eating.
The average picky eater knows what they like and what they don’t. They usually have about 20-30 foods in their diet, but aren’t overly particular about brands or styles of food they enjoy. They also don’t have a total freak out if a different food is on their plate, but will often ignore it.
How to help The Average Picky Eater Eat Better: Make sure you always serve one food at a meal that they typically eat, but don’t give them food that’s different from the rest of the family. Avoid making negative comments about food and don’t tolerate your child making those remarks either.
Read more in The Complete Guide to Picky Eating
Type #3: The Extreme picky eater (6-12 points)
Extreme picky eaters typically eat less than 20 foods and throw a tantrum or gag when a new or different food is on their plate. The extreme picky eater drains parents and stress levels at meals are usually pretty high. It seems there’s no way out of short order cooking and the thought of them eating a new food is like a pipe dream.
These kiddos often food jag and may only eat foods cooked a certain way or at a certain temperature. If the slightest thing is “wrong” with the food, they won’t eat it.
This is one of the reasons that parents feel so stressed, you never know if your child is going to eat.
Head over to Extreme Picky Eating to learn more.
How to Help the Extreme Picky Eater: First of all, read the strategies listed for the average picky eater and the ultra picky eater because those will be important for you too. In addition to those, focus on getting meals on a schedule so that your child has a good 3 hours in between meals. This helps adjust their appetite and makes them hungry when they sit down to eat!
Make sure that you only give them water in between meals because even a little milk or juice can affect their appetite! Learn more about this strategy in How to Get Kids Eating Meals Instead of Snacking All Day.
Type# 4: The Ultra picky eater (13 -18 points)
The Ultra Picky Eater is a term only I use, and it’s basically an extreme picky eater that’s highly limited. Often kids in this category only have a few different foods that they eat day in and day out. Birthdays are stressful, they can’t stand to watch others eat, and forget different brands of the few foods they do eat.
A child in this category may also have low-weight concerns because they aren’t eating enough.
If you’re a parent of an ultra picky eater, you likely feel like your kid is so severe that nobody can relate because their picky eating is on a whole other level.
How to help The Ultra Picky Eater: First of all, take a deep breath and realize that there are many layers to picky eating. And, that no matter how limited your child’s diet is, it can improve. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in the most extreme cases. Start by not pressuring your child to eat and use a small side plate to start serving family style, see if they can serve themselves a small amount.
If that’s too big of a leap, then start by having them pass the food. Any interaction they have is a step in the right direction.
The key is to begin to associate eating with something positive. For more on this important strategy check out The Best Picky Eating Tip
Get a Free Printable Copy of Your Results!
I bet you’d like a printable copy of all that so you can show your spouse and keep track of the recommendations? Don’t worry I’ve got you covered! Click the button below and I’ll send you the quiz and the results for you to keep!
More on Picky Eating
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.