Fussy Eater Meaning

What’s the Meaning of a Fussy Eater?

When discussing children’s eating habits, you may hear some of the following terms: picky eater, fussy eater, food aversion, problem feeder, neophobia, ARFID or eating disorder. Here we look at the meaning of fussy eaters and other types of eating problems in a bit more detail:


The literature varies on the author’s description of picky and fussy eaters and there doesn’t appear to be a general consensus on the topic. Picky and fussy eaters appear very similar but in general describe children who may eat a food one day then not the next. They may go off a favourite food after eating it repeatedly but after a break from it for a short period of time they will eat it again. They may only eat Granny’s apple pie but not yours. Picky eaters can be frustrating to deal with as you may cook what you thought was their favourite meal only to be told that they don’t like that anymore and it is yuck.


You may hear this term in relation to a child having mild food neophobia which is a stage that many toddlers go through around age two. It is a normal stage a toddler can pass through. They refuse to eat new foods or their familiar foods if they have been altered e.g. refuses to eat a broken biscuit. I distinctively remember this stage in my son as he had a tantrum if his biscuit broke. I tried to convince that he was lucky as he now had two biscuits one for each hand, but he wasn’t having any of it! Neophobia is actually a way to protect us from eating potentially unsafe or dangerous foods.

ARFID – Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Children with this condition are unable to get adequate nutrition orally to optimise their growth needs. This has a significant impact on their weight, growth and/or psychosocial functioning. They avoid or restrict foods due to sensory properties, have extreme fear of food, appear to have a lack of appetite and would rather not eat than have a non-preferred food. Their fear of food may restrict their social experiences. The eating difficulty is not attributed to a medical condition or explained by another mental health disorder. Restricted eating is not due to perception of body weight or shape.

At Magnificent Munchers we work with children who have the following eating difficulties:

· Limited or decreasing range of foods in their diets (usually less than 20)

· Refuses whole textures or categories of food e.g. only eats purees, no lumps or doesn’t eat fruit or vegetables

· Excessively cries or tantrums when presented with new foods

· Gags or vomits when offered or is in close proximity to new foods.

· Reacts excessively to food on hands or face

Common problems parents report to us at Magnificent Munchers are:

· Child would rather go hungry than eat a non-preferred food

· Mealtimes are a battle field

· Child will only eat if watching an electronic device

· Child will refuse to come in the kitchen/dining area due to smell of food

· Child will refuse to go to play dates unless they know their preferred food will be available

· Child insists on taking packed lunch to school with same food each day

· Parents has to prepare a separate meal for the child to the rest of the family

· Child refuses to try new food


Jacqueline offers a free phone consultation to discuss each child’s individual eating difficulties with parents/carers. During the consultation she discusses if individual or group sessions would be most appropriate for your child. Any medical conditions should be discussed at this point.

To find out more about how Magnificent Munchers Food School benefits children who are picky eaters or have difficulty at mealtimes call 07591 733420 or email the Magnificent Munchers team enquiries@magnificentmunchers.com