picky eater or problem feeder

What’s the Difference Between Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders?

Having a child that is a picky eater can mean different things. Sure, your child doesn’t like vegetables and it seemspicky eater or problem feeder
nearly impossible to get anything into their mouth besides chicken fingers and french fries. But, when should you begin to worry that this is a problem that you can’t handle all on your own? For the answer, we need to examine picky eaters vs problem feeders.

A picky eater is very selective about the foods that they will eat. This may be in regards to taste, texture, or appearance. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Picky eating is not uncommon in childhood and may occur when a child begins to assert independence or when they begin to feed themselves.

A problem feeder may present like a picky eater, with some key differences. Read below for signs and characteristics of picky eaters vs. problem feeders. If your child shows signs of being a problem feeder, call in the professionals!

The Difference Between Picky Eaters and Problem Feeders:

Picky Eaters Problem Feeders
Accept more than 30 foods Accept fewer than 20 foods
Will regain foods lost due to frequent consumption Do not regain foods lost due to frequent consumption
Are able to tolerate new foods on plate and perhaps even taste them Become upset when new foods are presented (throwing, crying, pushing food away)
Eat at least one food from each food group Refuse entire groups of food textures
May be picky about varieties and brands Often demonstrate red flags for feeding disorders (excessive drooling, sensory processing difficulties, immature swallowing and/or oral motor skills, etc.)


If your child shows signs of being a problem feeder, seek the help of an occupational therapist or speech and language pathologist.

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North Shore Pediatric Therapy (2011). Picky eating: when to be concerned and how you can help. [PowerPoint slides].