Let’s face it, getting children to try new foods can be difficult for any parent. Often times, parents attribute their child’s picky eating to “typical toddler behavior”, “being stubborn” or “having control issues”; however, there is a fine line between a child being a “picky eater” versus a “problem eater”.
What is the difference between a PICKY eater and a PROBLEM eater?
Picky eaters typically have MORE than 30 foods that they eat regularly. These children will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
Problem eaters are children who have less than 20 foods that they will eat regularly. These children struggle to eat a variety of foods. These children may choose to eat foods with the same textures (eating only crunchy foods or soft foods), eating foods that are the same color (only orange foods or beige in color) or only eating a specific brand or type of each food (only eats chicken nuggets shaped like triangles or only eating McDonald’s French fries).
For the Problem eaters, eating can be very challenging for a parent. Most often, children who have a low inventory of foods that they eat may have a form of sensory processing disorder. These children’s overall “pickiness” with their diet stems from an underlying sensory issue.
Sensory Processing issues can affect a child’s eating habits in various ways. Some ways a child’s eating habits may be affected include:
• Gags on solid or strongly flavored foods
• Shows defensiveness to touching their face or brushing their teeth
• Seeks out only bland foods
• Seeks out only crunchy foods
• Struggles with coordination needed to use a fork or spoon
• Dislikes getting food on their face
• Doesn’t like their lips to touch the spoon or fork (prefers food dumped into the mouth)
• Doesn’t like foods too cold or too warm
• Only likes foods room temperature
• Doesn’t like foods with multiple textures (peanut butter and jelly sandwich)
• Has a tendency to only want beige starch foods (bread, crackers, fries)
• Has a strong aversion to brushing their teeth
If you are concerned with your child’s finicky eating, please feel free to contact our office at 704-821-0568 to speak with one of our licensed OT therapists for more information regarding the possibility of sensory integration issues.