Do Children Outgrow Being Picky Eaters? Interview with:

Megan H. Pesch, MD, MS, FAAP Assistant Professor C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital University of Michigan

Dr. Pesch

Megan H. Pesch, MD, MS, FAAP
Assistant Professor
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
University of Michigan What is the background for this study?

Response: Picky eating is common among children and is often both concerning to parents. Healthcare providers may reassure parents that their child will “outgrow” picky eating, however there have been few longitudinal studies examining the trajectories of picky eating in children, as well as associated trends in their growth.

In our study we examined the trajectories of picky eating in US children over a 5 year period. We also examined how these picky eating trends were associated with child characteristics, weight status and mother’s feeding behaviors. What are the main findings?

Response: This study identified three stable trajectories of picky eating – high, medium and low. Trajectories of picky eating persisted over the five year study period. Children who were persistently pickier were less likely to have an obese weight status. Picky eating was not associated with being underweight. Children in the persistently high and medium picky eating trajectories had mothers who were more demanding, although this decreased overtime. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: While children did not “grow out” of picky eating in this study, it may be a relief to some parents that picky eating was not associated with being underweight and may be protective against obesity. Any advice for parents or caregivers?

Response If parents or caregivers want to expand their child’s palate, creating a low pressure mealtime environment is important. Pressuring a child to “clean their plate” or eat foods they have a strong aversion to can create negative associations with those foods, and may increase pickiness in the long run. Involving children in the selection and preparation of foods (e.g. choosing their own vegetables at the grocery store, or helping with cooking), parental role modeling consumption, and exposing a child to a new food repeatedly can improve food acceptance over time. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future work should examine picky eating interventions, in terms of timing and design – picky eating may not be persistent if effective strategies can be implemented. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: In this study we found that parents of pickier eaters were more demanding, but we do not know if the picky eating caused the demandingness or vice versa (or a bit of both). Parents may adapt their feeding behaviors in response to their child’s eating in an attempt to help their child eat what they perceive as a healthier diet.

No disclosures 


Trajectories of Picky Eating in Low-Income US Children
Carmen FernandezHarlan McCafferyAlison L. MillerNiko KacirotiJulie C. Lumeng and
Megan H. Pesch




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Last Updated on May 26, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD