Is Your Child a Picky Eater?

The way I see it, if your child restricts her food choices and is not getting a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and if at the same time she relies on sugary and starchy foods, then you may have a picky eater who needs to change her habits. Find out by answering the following questions:

  • Does your child lack vitality?
  • Does your child look sickly or unhealthy?
  • Is your child moody or overly sensitive?
  • Does your child eat a mostly “white” diet—bread, pasta, crackers, white cheese?
  • Do you find yourself wondering in the morning if this will be a “good” or “bad” day?
  • Does your child complain that many foods taste or smell funny?
  • Is your child unable to eat foods or dishes that are mixed, such as meat loaf, or
    salad with various vegetables included?
  • Are mealtimes stressful because of food negotiating/refusal?
  • Do you have to prepare a separate dinner for your child most nights?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you likely have a picky eater.

What to Do

1. If you think your child is suffering from an irritant, consider these symptoms: pale, pasty-looking complexion; skin anomalies (eczema, hives, dermatitis, rashes); bowel issues, especially constipation, or frequent diarrhea (a sign of gluten intolerance); sick all the time; craving beyond reason dairy or wheat-based products.

2. Next, consult a health care professional such as a nutritionist, GI specialist, or allergist to discuss testing possibilities or questions that need answering. The best test, however, is simple: eliminating the food you suspect. That way you can see your child’s individual response.

3. Try a simple elimination diet for four to six weeks. Dairy is the most common food irritant, followed by sugar and gluten and wheat-based foods.

4. If you eliminate dairy, replace the calcium with 900–1,000 milligrams of calcium supplement, split into two doses. Don’t substitute soy milk for dairy, because soy has a similar chemical structure to milk, so half of kids with dairy issues have the same response to soy. The soy/dairy relationship is discussed further in chapter 5.

5. Then try the E.A.T. program discussed in the next chapter, along with a multivitamin that includes 15 milligrams of zinc if the child is three or older.

About the Author

Kelly Dorfman is the author of: What’s Eating Your Child? The hidden connections between food and childhood ailments (Workman Publishing, 2011). Visit