125: Picky Eating: 4 Possible Cultural Root Causes (& Prevention Strategies)

I was asked a question on a podcast interview the other day that I’ve never been asked before – “WHY are there so many picky eaters these days?

It really does feel like it’s an epidemic, far different than our childhood.

What gives? I have 4 theories as to the underpinnings, and those lend a hand to create a playbook to avoid picky eating in your own kids if they’re young enough to circumvent bad habits.

That’s GREAT news with MUCH hope!

I’m going to be unpacking a lot of habits, expectations, and attitudes that can banish picky eating power struggles from your mealtimes during the FREE 5-day No More Picky Eating Challenge, starting April 21. We already have thousands of families on board, committing to making one small change each day so that they never again have to say, “I just want my kids to eat what I make!”

Save your Seat!

It has to be said of course that there are many biological root causes to picky eating too, and we’ll dip our toe into that during the challenge as well.

All are welcome! And I have over $3500 in prizes you could win! See you inside!

Can’t see the video? Find out the 4 root causes of picky eating here on YouTube.

4 Root Causes of Picky Eating

  • 0:15: Today we’re talking about picky eating! Why are there so many picky eaters these days?
  • 0:54: I have at least four theories about why we seem to have more picky eaters now than ever before. I’ll also share 4 preventative strategies you can start now with your little kiddos.
  • 1:57: In all my research and work with families learning how to cook the 4 causes of picky eating I see come from culture, change in parenting, physiology, and psychology

No matter what life throws at our kids, we need them to be resilient.

This free download will give you some practical and actionable steps to improve brain health and resilience.


  • 2:21: First we’ll address culture. As a culture, we’ve separated kids’ food and adult food. Kids aren’t expected to eat what we eat…so they don’t. Look at any kids menu, cafeteria menu, or convenience food marketed towards kids. Watch my faux TED talk for more on the problems with kid food.

We've lowered the bar for what kids are expected to eat. -Katie Kimball

  • 3:20: So many moms tell me that their dream is just to cook one meal for dinner. I hear from women who love cooking and want to enjoy cooking for their family and eating together, but every meal ends in power struggles.
  • 4:32: Parenting has changed a lot since I was a kid in the 80s. Most people my age say they weren’t picky eaters because they didn’t have the choice. They were forced to eat everything, sitting at the table for hours until they’d finished their meal or served their leftovers for breakfast the next day.
  • 5:22: I also hear from many of these same parents that being forced to eat everything had a negative impact on their relationship with food long term. I don’t believe the old school “clean plate club” model is the best choice, but I do think the pendulum has gone too far in the opposite direction.
  • 6:09: We have an epidemic of helicopter parenting and doing everything for our kids. All the fear wrapped up in helicopter parenting leads to worries over our kids not eating enough, or not liking their food, and more short-order cooking. My interview with author Julie Lythcott-Haimes about the dangers of helicopter parenting.
  • 8:32: My third theory is that highly sensitive people are increasing and that increases picky eating. Eating is a very sensory experience. Smells and textures can be very overwhelming to an HSP. Is your child highly sensitive? Find out here.
  • 9:29: I wonder if we’re getting more sensitive due to increased toxins in our environment, blue light, screen use, and all the increased sensory stimulus we encounter. 
  • 10:58: My final root cause for picky eating is increased stress in kids. I interviewed some teachers a few years ago and they said they can feel how much more stressed kids are these days even than just 10 years ago. Building resilience in your kids to reduce stress.

When a kid is stressed or anxious, what can they control? They control what goes in their mouth. -Katie Kimball

  • 13:51: So now what!? What four strategies can we use to prevent picky eating with our little toddlers? You can use these strategies with older kids as well, they just work best before the child is a picky eater.
  • 14:22: Firstly, commit to no short-order cooking. You don’t need to force your kids to eat what you make, but you also don’t need to make 3 dinners every day.
  •  15:42: I encourage parents to have some variety at each meal. Make at least one thing your child likes, but also 2-3 other elements to the meal. 
  • 16:32: Kids don’t want you to be their friend or their servant. They need you to be an authority figure to set boundaries. We need to set rules that will keep our kids safe, help them learn, and give them choices within boundaries.
  • 18:33: Allow your kids to have preferences. If your child has a sensory issue with a food allow them to express that and honor it. Maybe your child has a hard time chewing meat unless it’s ground meat or shredded slow cooker meat. Maybe they like crunchy foods, but not mushy foods. Read about the tiny salad strategy here.
  • 19:43: A quick tip is to allow your child to have involvement with foods without the pressure of eating them. This can be helping choose foods, cooking, or playing with foods. Anything that allows them to be exposed to those textures and smells with no pressure to taste. Playing with food is an important developmental step!
  • 20:15: Reduce stress at the table to reduce kids’ anxiety around food. If we have firm rules or a “clean plate club” our kids will resist and boom you have a power struggle. 
  • 21:43: Changing the language you use can have a huge impact on your kids’ stress levels around food.

Power struggles definitely don’t work for anyone. -Katie Kimball

  • 24:08: We’re starting a 5-day FREE picky eating challenge on April 21st. You can totally join anytime during the challenge and catch up. There’s one simple step to take each day to see changes in your kids!

More Resources to Tackle the Root Causes Behind Picky Eating

Why are kids so picky? What causes picky eating?

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe to The Healthy Parenting Connector

Katie Kimball

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2. Try a Free Preview of my Cooking Class for Kids

Our members’ favorite lesson is always our 10-minute knife skills and safety class, teaching techniques with unique & memorable phrases from butter knives to chef’s knives (ages 2-teen). Take a peek here and try it out with your kids.

3. Enroll in the Online Cooking Course for Kids:

Enroll now in the Wall Street Journal’s #1 recommended online cooking class for kids (also rated 5 stars on Facebook). See what fits your family best HERE.

About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

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