Extreme picky eating could be ARFID

November 27, 2019 Providence Nutrition Team

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: When it may be more than just picky eating.

Anyone who has ever tried to get an unwilling child to eat something that doesn’t taste, smell, look, or chew exactly the way they think it should knows just how difficult dealing with a picky eater can be.

In most instances, a limited menu is not a significant cause for concern. In serious cases, however, food aversion is more than just a strong preference for chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese for every meal. If your child (of any age) refuses food based on its texture, color, smell, or appearance to such an extent that his or her nutrition, growth and development is affected, it could be Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

If left untreated, ARFID may cause several health complications, including:

  • Co-occurring anxiety disorders
  • Developmental delays and learning disorders
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Gastrointestinal complications
  • Malnutrition
  • Social isolation

Knowing the difference between picky eating and ARFID can help you determine if it’s just a normal developmental phase or something that requires professional help.

Here’s a look at five key differences.

Find a doctor

Serious food issues can have serious consequences for your child’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. The multidisciplinary team of eating experts at Providence is comprised of a wide range of specialists focused on helping children resolve the food challenges that are keeping them from reaching their full potential.  Search for nutritionist in our regional directory or find a location near you:






Related Resources

Disordered eating vs. eating disorder—what’s the difference?

Kids and Picky Eating: Advice from a Mom & Pediatrician

When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: It's Not About Supper, It's About Support

Walden Eating Disorders: ARFID

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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