Why do kids suddenly become picky?

Krystyn Parks, MS, RD

As a dietitian, I hear it all the time: “My kid used to eat everything I set in front of them, but now they refuse anything I offer! What happened? Why did my kid suddenly get picky”.

It’s common.

While this is a fairly common problem (one study estimated about 20% of children are selective eaters), it is one of the most frustrating aspects of feeding children. Between ages 1 and 3, kids are learning about their independence, this includes eating! They are realizing they are their own person with their own preferences, and they want to make them known! There are some other factors that come into play around this time too:

Energy needs change.

During the toddler years, their energy expenditure decreases significantly. The first year of life is one of the most rapid times of growth. Once that growth slows down, a kid’s appetite will naturally decrease. Kids will naturally start eating less and will also start to focus mostly on foods they know they like. If your concerned that your child is eating too much or too little, feel free to ask your Foublie coach about it!

Kids are intuitive eaters.

Kids are naturally intuitive eaters, meaning they eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. A child may appear picky at mealtime if they are not coming to meals hungry. A regular meal and snack schedule can help ensure that kids are hungry (but not starving) at the start of the meal which may make them more likely to eat a variety of foods.

It’s evolution?!

There is a school of thought that this pickiness is a biological protection. As kids gain the ability to wander off and explore new places, the fear of trying a new food may prevent them from eating something dangerous.

It’s not just about food.

Kids may also be testing out their limits. If they have had success in the past with refusing a new meal and being offered one of their favorite foods, they may try this method again. Why risk trying something new and scary when they can just wait for something yummy?

It’s a phase.

As frustrating as this phase can be, most kids do outgrow picky eating! One study found that most children’s pickiness decreases around age 6. Your Foublie coach can provide you with practical tools to help your child become a more adventurous eater or help give tips so it doesn’t get worse.

Next Up: Understand what counts as beyond typical picky eating


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