Why Is My Child Such a Picky Eater?

Your picky eater may be a little annoying.

You go to a restaurant, you bring an extra meal for your kid. You and your partner make dinner, and your little one has a whole separate menu for themselves. You'd rather have them eat something than nothing, but you're a little worried that if they eat another chicken nugget, they're going to turn into one. 

Why are kids such picky eaters?

There are a lot of different reasons that kids can be picky eaters - but part of the underlying issue can be anxiety. 

A lot of my anxious little kiddos are very picky eaters.

They'll only eat mayonnaise on white bread. Or they'll eat applesauce on Tuesdays and Tuesdays alone. That picky eating can be part of their exerting control on a little corner of their world. The feel overwhelmed and anxious about everything else, so at least they have a say on what they eat and when.

Anxious kids can also have sensory processing issues with food as well.

And in times like these, it may be helpful to have them meet with an occupational therapist who can help with their eating issues.

How can parents help with picky eaters?

  1. Start small. Have one food you introduce each week. Have it on their plate. Don't take it off.
  2. If they try a new food? Praise, praise, praise! Be very specific - you are so proud of them for trying that new food. They did a great job having one bite of the meatloaf. ETC.
  3. Ignore the negative behavior. If they throw their food on the floor, just ignore it. Yes, it will be messy - but if you're not giving them a big response, you're not accidentally reinforcing their behavior.
  4. Meet with a counselor. If they're very picky, they're experiencing anxiety about new foods on some level - and I'd guess that they're anxious and stressed about other new things as well.
  5. Consider Occupational Therapy. Many OT's can help with picky eating, and assess if there is an underlying sensory processing issue, meaning they're not just picky for the sake of being picky.

Curious to hear more? Kelsey specializes in child anxiety and works with a lot of picky eaters. Kelsey is a child anxiety therapist in St. Louis. Her office is located in Webster Groves. Reach out at compassionatecounselingstl@gmail.com to hear more about her work, or see if she recommends a psychiatrist vs. a psychologist vs. an occupational therapist for your child.