Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders – Dr. Kay A. Toomey


Picky Eaters

  • Decreased range or variety of foods that will eat = 30 foods or more
  • Foods lost due to “burn out” because of a food jag are usually re-gained after a 2 week break
  • Able to tolerate new foods on plate and usually can touch or taste a new food (even if reluctantly)
  • Eats at least one food from most all food texture groups
  • Frequently eats a different set of foods than the rest of the family, but usually eats with the family
  • Will add new foods to repertoire in 15-25 steps on Steps to Eating Hierarchy
  • Sometimes reported by parent as a “picky eater” at well-child check-ups

Problem Feeders

  • Restricted range or variety of foods, usually less than 20 different foods
  • Foods lost due to food jags are NOT re-acquired
  • Cries and “falls apart” when presented with new foods
  • Refuses entire categories of food textures
  • Almost always eats different foods than the family
  • Adds new foods in more than 25 steps
  • Persistently reported by parent as a “picky eater” across multiple well-child check-ups

Picky Eaters vs. Problem Feeders (PDF)

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