What is a picky eater? 

Find out what a picky eater is. We give you some tips to prevent your child from becoming a picky eater and to handle a child that’s fussy with food.



According to the World Health Organisation, during the first few years of life, optimum nutrition is essential for children’s growth and cognitive development. Moreover, a good diet in childhood reduces the risk of suffering from obesity, diseases or being overweight. A picky eater, however, shows that this pretext isn’t always easy to carry out. But first, you will be wondering… ¿what is a picky eater

This term refers to the type of child that is fussy with food or selective when it comes to eating. They are characterised by rejecting food groups and protesting when they are offered to them (particularly vegetables and meat); moving food around their plate and constantly examining it; refusing to eat all types of textures; hiding or throwing food and being very active at the table (so much so that they sometimes find it hard to sit still). 

Another trait is that they only eat about twenty types of food (at a glance, it may seem like they aren’t eating enough calories or nutrients each day). Although a picky eater can try something new at any moment, they often dismiss it quickly.  They don’t like foods that have been mixed a lot either or products they can't clearly identify.

What are the causes of being a picky eater?

Dealing with a picky eater is complex. The causes are not abundantly clear, but there are some factors that can impact this reluctance children may have when it comes to eating, from the parent’s eating behaviour (sometimes too restrictive) to motor problems (such as chewing or a good posture), and even emotional aspects or being introduced to solid food at a late stage.

The plus side? That this type of behaviour, which typically appears between the ages of two and three, can be improved by following some recommendations.

Tips for handling a picky or fussy eater

First of all and if there is any doubt, it’s best to consult a paediatrician or specialist. They are best-placed to assess the child and advise you accordingly. In any case, try to stay calm at all times: in general, picky eaters don’t usually develop nutritional problems.

When dealing with picky eaters there are some tips that you can also apply:

  • Familiarise the child with good diet practices from an early age. For example, prepare the same meal for the whole family and associate this activity with an enjoyable time. If you lead by example for your little ones, they are more likely to try the healthy options available on the table.
  • Try and try again. We sometimes insist on a child eating vegetables and we become blinded, when in reality, it's best to start with fruit, whose sweet flavours are more easy to accept.
  • In this same vein, always have to hand some fruit or healthy snacks they like, and allow it to be an alternative to lunch or the main course. A bowl of fruit with natural yoghurt or wholemeal cereals with fruit are excellent options.

On the other hand, it is best to avoid:

  • Clapping, praising or rewarding children for eating. In this case, the child will only eat if they get something for it, following a rewards system.
  • Telling them off for not eating, given that this can have the opposite effect. You shouldn’t force them to eat, but encourage them to try new foods.
  • Distractions like toys, televisions or tablets.
  • Offering dessert as a reward or punishment. Desserts can be healthy and provide extra vitamins and energy.
  • Drawing out meal times. It's best to set a time for meals and allow the child to leave the table if they have finished. This will have a positive impact the next time he or she has to sit and eat.