Impact of picky eating in early childhood


Picky eating is an all-too-common hallmark of childhood. A new investigation looks at the impact of picky eating.

Picky eating is common in children and may be a source of anxiety for parents who worry that their child isn’t getting necessary nutrients. An investigation in Pediatrics examines how picky eating habits can impact other areas of a child’s life.1

The investigators looked at 317 low-income mother-child pairs who provided anthropometry and reported picky eating behavior and maternal feeding behaviors using a questionnaire. The mothers completed a questionnaire when the child was aged 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 years. Mothers were asked about demographics and child emotional regulation when entering the study.

There were 3 different trajectories of picky eating in the children: persistently high, persistently medium, and persistently low. Children who were in the high picky-eating trajectory were at risk of higher child emotion lability and lower child emotional regulation. Overall picky eating was linked with low restriction in the low picky eating trajectory and high demandingness in the high picky eating trajectory. Both medium and high picky eating trajectories were linked with lower body mass index z scores.

Researchers concluded that picky eating is traitlike during childhood. Children who are highly picky about food could be protected against higher z scores, but this potential connection should be investigated with further research.


1.    Fernandez C, McCaffery H, Miller AL, Kaciroti N, Lumeng JC, Pesch MH. Trajectories of picky eating in low-income US children. Pediatrics. 2020;145(5):e20192018. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-2018

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