When a Kid’s Picky Eating Isn’t Just About Food

Girl (3-4) sitting at table with plate, close-up
Photo: Biddiboo/Getty Images

Every family has a kid who won’t eat, as the narrator of A Christmas Story tells us, and research somewhat supports that: Picky eating is pretty common in kids, with up to 20 percent of parents reporting that their preschooler is “often” or “always” suspicious of the foods on their plate. 

But just because it’s common doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harmless, according to new research published today in Pediatrics. Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders, followed more than 900 preschool-age children for three years, and found that the pickiest of the picky eaters were almost twice as likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression than kids who weren’t quite so selective about their food. 

It’s not as if all picky eaters are at risk for developing anxiety, but it is a sign that parents and pediatricians should keep an eye on their picky eaters, in case it does turn out to be an early indicator of something more serious. For the rest of the kids who won’t eat, there happens to be a particular bedtime story written just for them.

When a Kid’s Picky Eating Isn’t Just About Food