Is your kid a picky eater, or do they have a food intake disorder?

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If you’ve ever spent time with young children, you know their food choices can sometimes be a bit interesting.

But when it comes to their well-being, when is it just a phase, and when is it more? Let’s look at the risks and warning signs of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

ARFID can sometimes mask itself as a child being a picky eater, but when children start to experience significant weight loss or their physical growth is affected, medical professionals warn it can be much more.

“It’s very unique in that it seems to come up in younger childhood and really doesn’t have anything to do with the child wanting to lose weight,” says Page Love, registered dietitian. “It’s just that they often have a hyper-sensitivity to textures and tastes and smells that causes them as a result, to restrict their food intake.”

Love, who treats kids with ARFID, says almost every patient she sees eats the same limited diet.

“Macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, and usually chicken nuggets from a particular place, french fries, cheese quesadilla or a grilled cheese sandwich,” Love says.

So, children may experience vertical growth, but can be severely underweight and not producing muscle.

Slowed reactions, anxiety disorders and fear of social situations a lot of times go hand-in-hand with an AFRID diagnosis.

“If kids just aren’t having a normal progression of trying new food and it starts to impact their growth, those are the big red flags that parents should be aware of and talking to their pediatricians about,” Love says.

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