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Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?

Picky Eater or Problem Feeder? Have you ever wondered if your child was simply a picky eater, or if there was a reason for concern that maybe your child

was a problem feeder?


Early On Oakland Family Support Series recently put on a seminar that explained the difference between picky eaters and problem feeders. Is your child a picky eater or problem feeder? Here are some guidelines and characteristics to help make the determination

Picky Eater or Problem Feeder?

Picky Eaters

  • Parents categorize their child as a picky eater when they see a decreased range or variety of foods that a child will eat. To be considered picky rather than a problem, the total number of foods the child will eat should be 30 or more. This includes two or more versions of the same type of food. For example, if your child likes chicken breast and chicken breast lunch meat, that will count as two foods.
  • Another characteristic of a picky eater is that when your child tires of a specific food – i.e. a “burn out” – the food is usually regained after a two-week break.
  • Picky eaters are able to tolerate new foods on a plate, and can usually touch or try a new food, even if reluctantly.
  • Another attribute of picky eaters is the ability to eat at least one food from most all food texture groups.
  • Finally, picky eaters will add new foods to their repertoire by following the suggested 15-25 steps on the Steps to Eating Hierarchy, developed by Kay A. Toomey, Ph.D.

Problem Feeders

  • Problem feeders have a restricted range or variety of foods as well, but in their case, the number of foods is usually less than 20.
  • For problem feeders, foods that are lost to “burn out” are unfortunately NOT reacquired.
  • Children who are problem feeders will cry and “fall apart” when presented with new foods.
  • Problem feeders can typically refuse entire categories of food textures.
  • Finally, when attempting to add a new food into a problem feeder’s repertoire, it will require more than 25 steps.

Source – Early On Oakland Family Support Series

Is your child a picky eater or a problem feeder?

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