When Do You Worry About a Picky Eater?

I saw one of the white-food kids a couple of weeks ago — a 9-year-old boy who lives on French fries, chicken fingers, white rice and white bread. Some white-food kids are so strict that their parents have to warn the restaurant that if there’s a little ceremonial dusting of parsley on the French fries, the child won’t eat them.

My patient’s mother was despairing: He won’t touch a vegetable, she said. He isn’t getting any healthy food at all. Some picky eaters are scrawny, but this one was chunky. In fact, it’s surprising to me how often a parent tells me, if I express some concern about the rapid rate of weight gain, that the child hardly eats anything, the child has no appetite, the child is incredibly, heartbreakingly, picky. And though I could tell you a perfectly true story about a mother who said just that as her child sat in the exam room, munching his way through a large bag of pizza-flavored Doritos, the truth is that it can be genuinely painful for parents to watch their children refuse food, and worry that they are somehow failing to provide the necessary vitamins, protein and vegetables.

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