Your child's fussy eating may be a sensory or psychological feeding issues

Here's what you need to know

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Your child struggles to sit at the table with other family members at mealtimes and even the sight and smell of food can make them gag or vomit.

They probably have a list of just a few foods, that they consider ‘safe’ to eat. They may have strong sensory preferences or seem completely uninterested in food.

You’re likely to be terribly worried because as a consequence of their fussy eating their health may have started to suffer. They may already be very slim and they really don’t have a lot of spare weight to lose if their eating gets worse.

You’d go as far as to say their lack of eating is interfering with their day-to-day life.

You may suspect they have the extreme fussy eating condition called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) but you likely haven’t had this diagnosis confirmed. 


It may have a medical or psychological cause or stem from having a bad experience like choking or an allergic reaction.

This type of fussy eating won’t go away without professional help, and your child will likely need feeding therapy.

You need a professional who will take your worries seriously and know how to get this fixed, rather than churn out the same old fussy eating advice that you know doesn’t actually work…

If this sounds like your child it’s important you get the right help.

You can ask your GP for a referral to a specialist feeding team. If your child has a diagnosis or is losing weight you should be seen via the NHS. If not unfortunately your referral might be declined. 

You’re welcome to explore Fussy Eating Fixed, our programme for extreme fussy eating that dives into sensory and the psychology of eating.

My Top 3 Pieces Of Advice:

1. Spend some time observing your child at mealtimes and looking at their food likes and dislikes to see if you can identify if they have any sensory preferences. The senses are:

  • visual
  • touch (including temperature or texture)
  • smell
  • hearing
  • taste
  • awareness of hunger/fullness
  • balance (are they able to sit well for the duration of the meal)
  • arousal (are they awake enough during a meal) 


2. Next add up the number of different foods your child eats in the following three food groups:

  1. Proteins (meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, dairy foods)
  2. Starchy Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, noodles, and other grains)
  3. Fruits and vegetables (frozen, dried, fresh, juices and smoothies)


Count each ‘version’ of a food individually, for example if they like mashed potato, chips and roast potatoes, count this at 3. Children who have less than 10 foods in each group are a likely to be deficient in nutrition so please seek advice from a Registered Dietitian ASAP.


3. Observe your family at mealtimes. Take a note of the conversation that happens around the table, notice your child’s body language and the general mealtime vibe. Are there any triggers where your child’s body language changed or they stopped eating? This will be different for all families but it gives an insight into the psychological cues that your child may have associated with not-eating.

Would you like some further reading about extreme fussy eating in children?

I have some blogs that will be interesting for you:

What is a picky eating disorder?

What is a sensory food aversion?



If you would like to learn how to work with me at The Children’s Nutritionist to help your child with their extreme fussy eating you can DM me on Instagram with the word SUPPORT and I’ll send you a personal reply.

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