This is the million dollar question for most families where a selective eater is present! It's also where there are so many different answers depending on where you look for information.
No one has a crystal ball so it's impossible to know what will happen to a particular child.
Feeding specialists around the world seem to be settling on a common figure though when it comes to the extreme end of picky eating. This would apply to approx 10% of children (1 in 10!!). These children are unlikely to grow out of their eating patterns without intervention.
I know from my work and speaking to parents on a daily basis just how many families have children who have very, very narrow diets and often disordered approaches to food.
Many well-meaning friends and relatives will advise you to leave things and believe children will grow out of it on their own (remember Uncle Mike as a child blah blah). And this may be the case. However, a) how many years does a child eat a really restrictive diet until this occurs b) how stressful is it for both them and you c) how socially isolating is it for the child and the rest of the family d) how does it affect siblings (who often eat more widely and yet have a disordered approach to food) e) what happens if they don't?
GP's will normally not be concerned as long as a child is traveling along their expected growth lines in terms of height and weight. And our bodies are indeed amazing machines and until we hit puberty can survive on minimal amounts of food and a limited range. But is this ideal in terms of concentration and overall development?
I follow a site for adult picky eaters that proves there are 1,000's of adults who just didn't get the grow out of it memo ...
I believe it's a very personal choice and one that parents are charged with making on their own. If I could give any advice it would be to look at not only what a child eats but also their approach to food and eating. Remember that eating is something we do 3-5 times per day every day. Any habits (good or bad) become very entrenched and the longer we do them, the harder to change them.
I was speaking to a colleague with a partner who is very selective (and over the half century in age). He loads his fork with exactly the same foods in exactly the same order at every dinner ...
If our child hasn't added a food in months this is a concern. Why would they suddenly start adding?
If our child is dropping foods this is a major concern. Often children get bored or have a bad experience with a food and so stop eating something.
If our child is becoming more fussy with the look, feel and/or smell of foods this is often the precursor to dropping foods.
If food is becoming a flash point, stressful, guilt-inducing or miserable it's time to look for support. The less fun food is the less likely we are to eat widely.
If you're at the point where waiting for a child to grow out of selective habits is not an option then please get in contact. We can tell you simply (and at no cost) whether it's a "phase" or whether intervention can bring about a change.
Let us give you the strategies that will support better eating in your house. Gain the skills that will enable you to gently encourage trying new foods. Learn how to serve one meal and have your child participate. And most importantly put the joy back into food for the whole family.
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.