At some point or another, nearly every kid will exhibit behavior that falls into the "picky eating" category — and if you've ever had a toddler who refuses to eat anything not served in her Peppa Pig bowl or a preschooler who insists on dipping literally everything in ketchup, then you know what I'm talking about. As insanely frustrating as this can be, it's usually a normal and temporary part of your child's development. But in some cases, it's not so normal. So what are some red flags that could mean your child is more than just a picky eater?
From underlying physical conditions to eating disorders such as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), also known as "extreme picky eating," there are a number of reasons why your child might be refusing to eat an appropriate variety of foods — and some of those reasons, which include gagging and weight loss, could require the attention of a medical professional. In some ways, it comes down to a matter of degrees: It's one thing if your kid makes a fuss over finishing his broccoli; it's another if he dissolves into hysterics at the mere mention of any green food, ever.
"The common denominator in all of these scenarios is the stress that having a hesitant, selective, or picky eater brings to the child, the parents, and the entire family," pediatric feeding specialist and author of kid-friendly cookbook Adventures in Veggieland Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP tells Romper.
"Just that level of stress in a household warrants getting help," she adds. "Feeding disorders can impact at least 25 percent of typically developing children, impacting both body and brain growth. Eighty percent of children with special needs have difficulty eating and may be diagnosed with a feeding disorder."
Worried that your reluctant eater might have something more serious going on? Watch out for the following warning signs, but remember: None of these are a guarantee that what your child is going through isn't just a relatively harmless phase; still, it's always a good idea to bring up any concerns with your pediatrician.