What to Do If Your Child Is a Picky Eater Prevalence of Picky Eaters among Infants and Toddlers and Their Caregivers’ Decisions about Offering a New Food.

5 mins read

Feeding a child can be a worrisome and difficult task. Although there are well-established feeding protocols that can be easily found on the Internet, the application of these protocols is not easy. When children begin to express dislike for certain foods, parents often avoid these foods so that they do not have to deal with tantrums.

The preference for or aversion to specific foods depends on multiple factors. Sometimes it has to do with something inherent to the food itself, such as taste, smell, and appearance. Other factors depend on the situation, such as the eating habits of parents and siblings, verbal support, and frequent modification of the diet.

Numerous studies have observed children classified as picky eaters. Most of these children accepted limited amounts of food, were not willing to try new foods, and showed strong preferences for certain ingredients.

In 2004, nutrition researchers from the United States and Canada performed another study titled “Prevalence of Picky Eaters among Infants and Toddlers and Their Caregivers’ Decisions about Offering a New Food” to determine the prevalence of children considered to be picky eaters. In the study, they identified predictors of picky eating, compared picky and non-picky eaters’ foods, and determined the numbers of times that caregivers offered a new food before deciding that their child did not like it.

Also read on this site: Picky Eating or an Eating Disorder? How to Ensure That Your Picky Eater Stays Healthy

How Was the Study Conducted?

The researchers interviewed caregivers who fed children between four and twenty-four months of age and who were already receiving complementary feeding. The methodology was not too complicated despite the large number of phone interviews that were conducted. There were 3022 interviews total.

Initially, the caregivers provided information about the child’s food intake, weight and height, ethnicity, and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

Then, the caregivers were asked whether they considered their child to be a very picky eater, a somewhat picky eater, or not a picky eater.

Finally, they were asked how many times they offered a new food before deciding that the child disliked it. More than ten times was an unusual but valid response.

Once the surveys were completed, the very picky and slightly picky eaters were merged into a single group, and the others were assigned to a not-picky group.


As expected, the responsibility of selecting meals for the child rested mostly with the mother (91 percent).

Two interesting variables are related to picky eating status: Older children were more likely to be considered picky, and children who fell within the higher weight-for-age percentiles were less likely to be picky.

Most caregivers offered a new food three to five times before deciding the child disliked it. Only 6 to 9 percent of the caregivers offered a new food six to ten times. About 25 percent of the caregivers offered new foods only one to two times.

Undoubtedly, deciding that a child does not like a meal after offering it only once or twice is insufficient. But one important finding is that most of the caregivers who offered new foods only one or two times were young mothers. Young mothers also labeled their children as picky eaters more frequently.

Therefore, more childcare education is needed so that young mothers can learn about infant feeding. Infants’ diets cannot be based solely on dairy products, bananas, and french fries. A certain variety is important to meet the nutritional requirements of children.

Visit a pediatrician to resolve any questions about a child’s diet, and remember that breastfeeding is still the best way to feed a baby.


Carruth, Betty Ruth, Paula J. Ziegler, Anne Gordon, and Susan I. Barr. “Prevalence of Picky Eaters among Infants and Toddlers and Their Caregivers’ Decisions about Offering a New Food.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104 (2004): 57–64. Retrieved from jandonline.org/article

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