Picky Eaters- Prevalence and When to do Something

PickyEaterPicky eating in childhood ranges from 8-50% of children.  Typically, a toddler or child limits the amount of food, or limits vegetables, or is unwilling to try new foods.  In the study, “Picky eating during childhood: A longitudinal study to age 11-years,” researchers looked at “prevalence, persistence, and characteristics of picky eating in a prospective study of 120 children and their parents followed from 2 to 11 years”. You can read the study here…

In this study, the issue was there 13-22% of the time and those who were picky eaters were that way for over 2 years 40% of the time.  The good news was that there was no issue with growth or development.  I often reflect back to my own parenting with this issue.  I found that for my children, if there were breakfast cereals in the house, that was mostly what they wanted for breakfast and for snacks or evening treats (provided we didn’t have any other options for junk food or deserts).  I found that if we had deserts then they had a poor appetite for dinner and the appetite mysteriously returned for desert!  If we had cookies, crackers, or similar processed foods, those were the foods desired and those were the food over which tantrums or whining was the norm.

I have a brother who raised his girls to finish everything on their plates or it returned on the next meal, and then the next meal, and so on, until that plate was clean.  They served only the healthiest of choices and small portions so it was simply training that his girls would not get to exclude certain healthful foods in preference for junk food or carbs or desert or some other more desirable food. I have a sister whose daughter, at age 3, would make requests for something different than what had been prepared for dinner and she would  make a new meal for her daughter.  Today she eats most foods well also. Most of my own children still avoid vegetables if given the option, and many still prefer processed foods … I feel like a failure as a parent!  I have no moral of the story here, just that you make an attempt to remove poor choices from the options.  That way, regardless of what style you choose, they end up eating real food and healthy food choices.

What to do for those really picky eaters who seem to struggle just to get anything down?  I might recommend you consult your physician or an Occupational Therapist who works on feeding issues and try food play.  The child gets to play with a variety of foods to remove the stress over food and sometimes some of it gets into their mouths.  For a child beyond infant times (over age 1) you might also consider some healthful smoothies. There are many options here.

In my office, I offer three powders (meal replacements/supplements) for sale:

  •    Total Meal Daily Advanced that I had formulated by a top medical nutrition company.  This is non-GMO and gluten free with pea/rice protein, phytonutrients, fiber, and 25 essential vitamin/minerals.
  •    Paleo Vegan Lean Therapy from almsbio. This is legume and grain free, as well as gluten free, with protein from organic pumpkin and cranberry seeds, Arabinogalactan, and coconut powder
  •    Complete Green Energy form almsbio. This is free of gluten, corn, soy, dairy, and GMO and made from greens, vegetables, and antioxidants  with enzymes.


In addition to these, I recommend you consider vitamin D and fish oil for all children. We carry the tastiest fish oil on earth, from almsbio.  Come by for a taste!

If you are patients of mine, or live in the Portland Oregon area, and wish to try any of these products, swing by and buy a can.  You can add fruit or mix with almond or coconut milk, and this can add a great amount of nutrients to your child’s diet.

For those who need more professional help and want a referral to a feeding specialist, do make an appointment with your physician so you can get help with this.

There is a higher level of anorexia in the teenage years for those children who never get these issues addressed.



Dr. Paul





  • Mrs. C.

    I was pretty much the world’s pickiest eater as a child. Now my kids, particlualry the youngest one (I was also the youngest), is the pickiest.
    I now like to eat almost everything with the exception of my most diskliked foods, such as liver and pickled beets. So, I tend not to worry about him. I know that he will one day grow out of it and eat well. It happened to me and I was a terrible eater.
    The trick I use with my kids is to make smoothies and shakes that contain fruits, veggies, coconut oil & water, chia seeds, sometimes crushed flax seeds and nut butters. I don’t divulge the ingredients….they just like that it is pink or purple and naturally sweet. I don’t add sugar, just the frozen organic fruit.
    I also make all of my own healthy baked goods, nut butters and meals. The kids’ favorite is my walnut butter with crushed flax seed, vanilla extract and couple Brazil nuts in the mix. It tastes like cookie dough!
    There are creative ways to get them the right nutrition and we supplement with probiotics, D3, omega swirl 3/6/9, and such. They are rarely sick and when they are, it is brief, they rarely run a fever, and if they do it never tends to be high.
    We try to avoid excess sugar, gluten, GMOs, artificial anything, and highly processed foods. My youngest DOES, like me, have issues with gluten…. As long as we stay away from those, we have great health.

  • Katie Friesen

    You mention in this article that if you are patients of mine, or live in the Portland Oregon area, and wish to try any of these products, swing by and buy a can. I take this to mean that people who are not patients can purchase these supplements from your office as well? Would this also include the Alms Bio Omega Therapy? I sent your office an email but I understand that per office policy your office doesn’t communicate through email. It stated that advice cannot be given to non patients- I only wondered if your office is still willing to sell supplements to non patients. Thanks so much.

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