You could classify up to a third of children around the age of two as ‘fussy eaters’. While exasperating for parents, behaviors like food throwing, refusal of certain foods, and even tantrums, until they get their favorite meals, are all part and parcel of childhood power struggles. And, for the most part, they’re issues that go away on their own when you put clear guidelines in place, such as a refusal to offer alternatives. 

For some parents, however, ongoing picky eating can become a far more worrying issue. Characterized by fussy eating that escalates, or continues well past the toddler stage, picky eating can become a serious cause for concern. It could even end up preventing a child from receiving the nourishing growth they need from their meals. 

But, what are the signs that your child’s picky eating has gone past the point of needing professional help?

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Parental Concern

No one knows your child’s picky eating like you. The chances are you’re fully aware of every meal they’ve skipped, or food group that they won’t touch. If you’re worried enough about these behaviors to read this article, then you could probably benefit from seeking a professional opinion. 

As well as putting your worries at ease, booking a visit to your child’s primary care provider can help to identify certain problems, behaviors, or signs that you might have missed. Your child’s doctor can then either give you meal plans and practices to try at home or, if they feel your child needs it, refer them for assessments or perhaps even feeding therapies like the ones offered by The earlier you seek help like this, the less likely picky eating will escalate into a lasting issue, and the sooner your child’s health will start to improve. 

Ongoing Food Refusals

Every child will go through stages where they refuse food. This is annoying, especially considering that fruit and veg tend to be the first things off the menu, but it’s not a sign of anything worrying. Typically, this behavior will last for no more than a few weeks and isn’t worth pursuing. 

In some cases, however, children may refuse food for longer periods, which is far more of a problem. Of course, it’s important not to mistake this for simple dislikes. If your child consistently refuses, say, pasta, then it may simply not be a food they enjoy. By comparison, picky eating means consistent refusal of entire food groups or every food apart from a select few safe foods. In this instance, seeking help is important, as it will ensure continued exposure to those foods in a professional setting that reduces the risks of your child refusing outright. 

Poor Concentration

As a general rule, a child’s concentration span should be around two to three times their age. In other words, a five-year-old should have a concentration span of around 15 minutes. If your child’s concentration is significantly less than this or has recently decreased, and they’re also not eating well, then you shouldn’t hesitate to get help. 

This is because many nutritional deficits can cause something called ‘brain fog’. This can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to concentrate on anything from a television program, to their schoolwork. As well as impacting their education, this is a sign their bodies simply aren’t getting what they need and could be a precursor to even more worrying health issues, like lethargy and bone weakness. 

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Significant Weight Loss

Fussy eating that results in weight loss is perhaps the clearest sign of a problem. At this age, children should be maintaining a consistent weight in keeping with a recommended percentile. You can measure your child’s percentile and BMI on sites like If they’ve slipped below the recommended percentile for their age, or have dropped a few percentiles since their last health check, there’s a definite issue. 

Weight loss is particularly worrying at a young age, as rapid, excessive weight loss can put the body under a great deal of stress. This could cause lasting damage, which you can best avoid by seeking immediate help with your child’s mealtime worries. 

As parents, it’s our place to worry, and you may spend time convincing yourself that your child’s picky eating isn’t as bad as you think. In reality, though, if you’re concerned, it’s always worth getting things checked out. This small step could help your child to develop healthier eating habits that last their whole life long. 

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