Home feeding environment and picky eating behavior in preschool-aged children: A prospective analysis

Eat Behav. 2018 Aug;30:76-82. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2018.06.003. Epub 2018 Jun 7.


Objective: Picky eating is prevalent in young children and is associated with poor dietary quality and nutrient deficiencies. Identifying predictors of picky eating could inform the development of anticipatory feeding guidance for parents and caregivers of young children. This study identified the association between factors of the home feeding environment with picky eating behavior in a cohort of preschool-aged children.

Methods: Parents of preschool-aged children (n = 497) completed questionnaires including measures of the home feeding environment (i.e., television during mealtime, family mealtime routines, and feeding practices) and child picky eating behavior. The questionnaire was repeated one year later, in which 326 parent-child dyads participated. Logistic regression was used to determine the cross-sectional and prospective associations between home feeding environment measures and child picky eating behavior outcomes.

Results: Child control over feeding and watching television during mealtime were associated with higher odds of picky eating behavior in both cross-sectional and prospective analyses. A higher sense of positive climate during family meals and mealtime ritualization was associated with lower odds of picky eating behavior one year later.

Conclusion: The home feeding environment plays a role in the development of young children's picky eating behavior. Avoiding the television and maintaining parent control of food choices during mealtimes could lead to improvements in children's food preferences and dietary intake.

Keywords: Children; Family meals; Feeding environment; Feeding practices; Picky eating.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Environment*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television / statistics & numerical data