Picky Eating -- A Phase or Feeding Disorder?

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picky eating or eating disorder

Odds are that your toddler's refusing to eat anything green or throwing a fit his meat is touching his mashed potatoes is just a plain old normal toddler phase. But for 10 percent of kids, these signs may point to something more serious -- an eating disorder.

What's the difference between a picky eating and something more serious?

Picky eaters may consume only a few different foods, but they are still getting a nourishing diet. Say he'll only eat mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, raisin bran, bananas, carrots, and chicken fingers if you're lucky. He's getting something from all the recommended food groups, and is probably getting enough variety of nutrients.

Children with eating disorders don't get enough calories and nutrients to promote healthy growth and development. They might eat only three to four types of foods -- say, only bananas, apples and bread or milk, crackers and yogurt -- eliminating entire food groups and jeopardizing their health.

Common symptoms of a feeding disorder include:

An abrupt change in eating habits lasting longer than 30 days;

Delayed development of a skill set necessary to self feed or eat more challenging textures;

Weight loss, or failure to gain weight;

Choking or coughing during meals;

Unexplained fatigue or loss of energy;

Disruptive behavior during mealtime.

Every child is different and may have a different assortment of behaviors, including refusing food by crying, spitting it out, turning their head or throwing utensils, coughing, gagging, and vomiting. Some 30 percent of children with developmental problems are likely to have a feeding disorder.

Early diagnosis is key to heading off complications such as anemia and developmental delays, like delayed crawling, walking and talking. If you suspect your child is suffering, contact your pediatrician.

For more information, go to the feeding disorder page at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

developmental delays, doctor visits, food

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charl... charlene1422

my daughter is such a picky eater i don't know what to do sometimes. i'm running out of ideas of diffrent kinds of food that i can feed her. help

auror... aurorabunny

My son has a ton of feeding issues and the best book I've ever read is "Just take a bite" by Lori Ernsperger.  It has tips and lots of great ideas for kids with disabilities and feeding disorders but it also has great tips for just plain picky eaters too. 

teamq... teamquinn

We battled food issues, just because my twins were premie and didn't grow very well.  We were fine until they stopped taking bottles and refused to drink pediassure.  We had a neutritionist come in and evaluate their eating.  What worked best for us was a lot of small meals or snacks and letting them have some control over what they ate.  They are still small for their age but are good eaters and are steadily growing.

diche... dichelle85

-my son is 3 years old & he will only eat meat.  i try to give him other things like spaghetti & meatballs or other things w/ meat mixed in it, but he just pushes the food around & only eats the meat.  i don't know what to do.

Hayde... HaydensMommy007

This is great! I have been having issues with my almost 15 month old daughter. She only eats a few foods (bananas, crackers, yogurt, and eggs) and if I try to give her anything else, she pitches such a fit and the food ends up all over the floor and she just about has a meltdown! Meal times are such a struggle! I am getting so frustrated and concerned. The pedi doesnt seem concerned because she is still nursing a couple times a day (about 3 times in 24 hours). She is gaining, but very slowly. I dont know what to do

Novem... NovemberLove

Eating disorders are usually psychologically based.  It is usually believed that anorexia nervousa is due to a type of body dismorphic disorder that makes a person feel fat when they aren't so they don't eat.  Bulemia is usually seen as a disorder that begins with the person trying to seek control over something in their life.  In the same way "picky eating" can be psychologically based if a child convinces themselves they don't like something or are afraid of certain textures.  Disorders are usually noticed when there is severe weight loss (or gain, over-eating can be a disorder too) and distress when in presence of certain foods that give them an unpleasant experience.  If someone suspects that their child has an actual eating disorder, they do need to go to the pediatrician right away to obtain tools and skills to help their child over come it :-(

athenax3 athenax3

I've raised five children- they all have gone through wierd eating cycles- two of them we thought would be vegetarians because they refused to eat meat for quite a long time- what I've learned is that a child won't starve themselves, they WILL eat when they get hungry enough, and that the less I fight them the sooner the battle ends. Sometimes children do exclude (or try to) entire food groups in their quest for independence and say over what they eat- from this I've learned to be creative- won't eat fruits, fine you don't have too, how about and icecream smoothie? (full to the brim with fresh fruit of course) Never going to touch a veggie? that sounds fascinating, here's your meatloaf (filled with spinach and steamed pureed cauliflower) - that's right I trick them, and I'm not the least ashamed of it- and because I never fought the battles when they're done with thier foolishness- they're good eaters- eating almost anything you put in front of them.


Eating disorders in young children are extremely rare and frankly I wish peds wouldn't give parents these ideas- now every child that refuses a carrot the mother will begin treating as if he/she has an eating disorder and if there is one things our children don't need more of it's "disorders".

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