7 Red Flags Your Child Is More Than Just A Picky Eater & Trying To Tell You Something's Up

Ad failed to load

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.

Ad failed to load

"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.

Ad failed to load

1Consistent Avoidance of Particular Foods

Giphy

It's completely normal for a child (or an adult, for that matter) to just plain not like certain foods. But if your little one emphatically and consistently avoids foods based on how they look, feel or smell, a sensory processing disorder might be to blame.

"A large issue I see is avoiding foods based on certain textures, smell, or even brands of food," Krisitna Zufall, M.Ed., a psychologist who specializes in eating disorders, tells Romper.

"When this severely limits a child’s food intake, I usually raise the alarm," she says. This type of avoidance can sometimes occur along side other disorders including Autism spectrum disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder, she adds.

2Extreme Pickiness When Deciding What to Eat

Giphy

Again, it's not so strange for a kid to have a tough time deciding what he wants for breakfast. It is cause for concern, however, if his indecisiveness happens at every meal, every day, and is starting to interfere with your daily life, as pediatric occupational therapist Alisha Grogan pointed out on her website Your Kid's Table.

3Gagging When Presented With Certain Foods

Giphy

If your child gags every time she tries a bite of a particular item, don't assume she's being dramatic (or just really, really hates the taste). As Rallie McAllister M.D. noted in Parents, there are a number of reasons that kids might have frequent gagging (or even vomiting) issues, from a hypersensitive gag reflex to gastroesophageal reflux. So it's definitely important to bring this up with your pediatrician.

Ad failed to load

4Anxiety Around Trying New Foods

Giphy

While it's fairly common for a kid to turn up her nose at a meal she's never tried before, if "your child is not able to take a taste of new foods without significant stress," says Potock, then you might want to pay attention. And again, the occasional meltdown over an unfamiliar side dish isn't unheard of — but if your kid can't even entertain the idea of sampling something outside of her usual repertoire without getting seriously upset, that's a different story.

5Difficulty Chewing and/or Swallowing

Giphy

Another potential symptom of sensory processing problems, an unwillingness (or maybe even inability) to properly chew food that's "crunchy" or "hard" can lead to some very limited choices.

"Even if a child seems to eat enough food, they may be eating the same texture — for example, yogurt, banana and oatmeal," certified nutritionist Bess Berger, RDN, CDN, CLT, tells Romper.

"It seems like a healthy, decent diet, but all those foods are soft (texture) and do not require much chewing."

6Weight Loss/Slow Growth

Giphy

Of course, the main reason why we're concerned about our kids getting adequate nutrition is so that they can "grow up big and strong," as the saying goes. So naturally, "In children, a large red flag is weight loss or failure to meet expected weight gains as they mature," says Zufall.

"Limited food intake and weight loss can cause malnutrition which may be evident in lab work conducted at physicals. When physical causes are ruled out, ARFID may be a cause."

Ad failed to load

7Your Child Has an Extremely Limited Range of 'Safe' Foods

Giphy

If you find that your child's regular diet revolves around a handful of "safe" and/or "inoffensive" foods (as in, he's existing on a steady intake of mac and cheese and applesauce and you can't go to any restaurant that doesn't have chicken fingers), this could be a sign of food-related anxieties — or it could be a sign that other foods are causing your child physical discomfort.

"Often, the root cause of disordered eating behaviors can be digestive ailments, food intolerances, and leaky gut/intestinal permeability," board certified holistic family nutritionist Sara Peternell tells Romper.

"I use IgG and antigen methods of testing, and results help us get to the bottom of why a child may avoid certain foods, even in children who are non-symptomatic. Testing, interviews with the family and child, a food journal, sometimes communication with the pediatrician, and other labs facilitate the healing program."

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack