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Why Do Kids Become Picky Eaters? And What Are the Consequences?

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Sep 15, 2022

Why Do Kids Become Picky Eaters? And What Are the Consequences?

Picky eaters can make life challenging for parents. Every parent wants their child to receive the right nutrition for their growth and development, but sometimes, their child doesn’t cooperate. Why do kids become picky eaters? What are the consequences for children who constantly refuse to eat? We take a closer look at the answers here.

Why Do Children Become Picky Eaters?

There are a number of reasons why kids become picky eaters. Most of the time, it is a normal part of their development. Many kids are sensitive to tastes, smells and textures. For other children, becoming a picky eater may be part of their personality development as they assert their independence and opinions. Or they may be emulating a parent’s behavior towards food. Other times, picky eaters have underlying health conditions.

Here are some conditions that cause children to become picky eaters:

1. Diarrhea

If your child’s appetite is usually good but suddenly they find it difficult to eat, it could be that they have a viral or bacterial infection.

Pay attention to whether the child often goes to the bathroom and complains of abdominal pain.

If the child has digestive problems, the most likely cause of the child’s difficulty eating is diarrhea, which is a common illness among young children.

2. Constipation

Constipation is a condition when the child’s bowel movement becomes difficult or labored. When a child is constipated, the frequency of bowel movements can be very infrequent. In fact, children with constipation may only defecate about 3 times a week.

When a child has this condition, it is possible that they may refuse to eat. They may also become reluctant to try new types of food.

picky eaters

3. Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a condition when white blood cells (eosinophils), which are supposed to ward off allergies, accumulate in the esophagus. This can be triggered by a response to allergens.

Most children who have esophagitis are usually allergic to certain types of food, such as milk, nuts, or eggs.

Esophagitis causes symptoms such as swelling of the throat. This causes pain when swallowing food and often results in kids becoming picky eaters.

4. Food Intolerance

Food intolerance occurs when the body does not have the ability to digest certain substances in food or drinks. It is important to understand that this condition is different from a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction.

The body’s inability to digest food causes a variety of symptoms. These include abdominal pain and nausea. And because of these symptoms, a child may refuse to eat.

Some food that can cause intolerance include lactose, wheat, and gluten.

5. Kidney and Liver Disorders

Various diseases that affect the function of the kidneys, liver, and other organs can make it difficult for children to eat.

If you suspect your child has a health condition that is causing picky eating behavior, consult a doctor to find out the exact cause.

picky eaters

What To Avoid Doing for Picky Eaters 

Sometimes it can be frustrating to see the habits of children who are difficult to feed. However, you should avoid taking actions that can make the situation worse.

1. Don’t Force Picky Eaters

Don’t force your child to finish a meal or try a new dish if they are not ready. Coercion can make it more difficult for the child to eat the food that has been prepared. Instead, try to stay positive about your child’s endeavors. For example, praise your child when they eat regularly and on time.

2. Don’t Make Picky Eaters Finish the Food on Their Plate

After your child feels full, do not force them to finish what is left on their plate. The more the child is forced to finish their food, the harder it is for the child to eat.

It’s a good idea to give your child a reasonable portion of food, not too much or too little. Or you can try giving smaller portions of food more often.

What Are the Long-Term Consequences When Your Child Has Difficulty Eating?

If your child’s picky eating behavior occurs once or twice, or rarely, it may not be a problem. However, don’t take it lightly when your child has difficulty eating over a long period of time.

Daily meals are a child’s main source of energy, and they supply kids with their daily nutritional needs. Naturally, children who have difficulty eating will not meet their daily nutritional needs. And this can interfere with the child’s cognitive and physical development.

Over time, these negative eating habits can hinder the child’s growth and development. At first, the impact of a child having difficulty eating may only affect their weight. Gradually, it may also affect the child’s height until it finally culminates in a sub-optimal nutritional status.

Ultimately, it is possible that nutritional problems will arise and cause malnutrition in children.

Don’t delay to find out what causes eating disorders in children. Consult your doctor for the right treatment.

The doctor may give vitamins for the child Whatever interferes with a child’s eating process needs to be identified as soon as possible. That way, the underlying cause can be found immediately, and the child can get all the nutrition they need.

Learn more about Child Health here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Sep 15, 2022

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