Why your grandchild’s picky eating should be taken very seriously 31



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If you, like so many grandparents, have a fussy eater on your hands, you might want to take note: it isn’t always just a phase, and it could be the sign of something more serious.

As grandparents, sometimes it can be easier for us to just give in the picky eating so we can avoid tantrums and have an enjoyable meal, but a new study has suggested a fussiness for particular food significantly increases the chances of a serious mental problem.

According to lead researcher Dr Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke Centre for Eating Disorders in the US, “The question for many parents and physicians is: When is picky eating a problem? The children we’re talking about are not just misbehaving kids who refuse to eat their broccoli”.

The new researched, published in the journal Pediatrics, found more than a fifth of the children were selective eaters. Of these, nearly 18 per cent were classified as “moderately picky” and about 3 per cent as “severely selective”.


Dr Zucker said that small amounts of pickiness is normal and most kids outgrow their fussy eating. With that said, it is a good idea to keep working on children who only eat a select few foods.

The study focused on about 900 children aged 2 through 5 in Durham, North Carolina, and they were interviewed to evaluate their eating habits and mental health. Follow-up evaluations were done two years later in almost 200 children.

Compared with children who aren’t fussy eaters, depression and social anxiety were at least two times more common in kids with severe pickiness; attention deficit behaviour and separation anxiety symptoms were more common in moderately selective kids.

Severe selective eating is actually called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. It can occur in all ages; some of those affected are extra-sensitive to food tastes, smells and textures.

Dr Zucker said severe pickiness may be the first clue for parents that a child is experiencing anxiety or depression and that they may want to seek help from a mental health specialist.


Tell us, is your grandchild a picky eater? What do you do to help them? 

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  1. Unfortunately this can indeed be a sign of something more going on. This pickiness in one of my little grandchildren was also one of the signs which led to his diagnosis of Autism. I do think that forcing children to eat can be terribly damaging. I think as adults we all have selective preferences and why do we block this from happening,just because they’re kids. I always played to the strengths of what they would eat and never made food an issue. When that little fellow was fussy, i did things like cut shapes for the sandwiches and I allowed for the fads. He only ate Vegemite on them for at least a year. Sometimes if they rebel at a taste can also mean that they might have an allergy developing. Watermelon for my son ,was not a treat. The other kids loved it,he always avoided it, then sometime later in his life he tried a piece and his lips turned to balloons!

  2. More likely the problem exists with the parents? I often think if our children lived in 3rd world countries where food can be scarce, finicky eating would not exist. I don’t understand why modern parents allow such young babes to feed themselves either, allowing them to play with their food. More ends up on the floor than in their mouth. Such an unnecessary waste and doesn’t achieve much. They still can become finicky eaters by age three or more.

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    • I cannot believe this its just that we didn’t know these many decades ago and now they are coming to light. I had a brother who his whole life was a picky eater and was made to eat meals he refused at the next meal time, he was also not allowed out to play if he didn’t eat. He didn’t eat them and he didn’t go out to play. In his 30s they discovered he did have problems and the eating disorder was the beginning but no one knew back then. It is not always what it seems to be !

  3. If your grandchild is a picky eater, try not to be to worried, don’t forget our tastes change with age, as long as they are getting some healthy food, they will be fine

  4. Why are these studies conducted in America. We all know that they are the most neurotic people in the world. If a child doesn’t like something it does not mean they are anxious It means they don’t like the taste or in our case. Our granddaughter wouldn’t eat butter because her daddy didn’t. We changed it to Olive Spread and she now eats it. So breakfast time is a joy. Her sister eats porridge and she eats fingers or as her poppy calls it soldiers and all is well

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  5. This article could really worry some people unnecessarily. Our youngest grandson doesn’t eat much, & I am very relieved as everyone else in his family, our son included, are extremely overweight. Our son didn’t have a turn off button, & it’s lovely to see this very active little gorgeous boy has.

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