Mealtimes a pain? How to help ‘resistant eaters’.

‘Resistant eating’ may provide a clue to adenoid and tonsil overgrowth. Parents of children with obstructing adenoids and tonsils frequently report ‘resistant eating’ – difficult good behaviors that emerge gradually as the child ages.

How do adenoids and tonsils contribute to ‘resistant eating?’

Large adenoids plug the back of the nose. Eating can become uncoordinated, tasteless, breathless and difficult. The delicious tastes and smells that normally flow through the mouth and nose become dull and uninviting. Large tonsils can ‘catch’ foods – the resulting gagging alarms young children, and can cause them blacklist entire food groups. Families may see a gradual narrowing of their previously ‘good eater’s’ range of accepted foods.

Enlarged adenoids and tonsils also cause snoring and disturbed sleep. When severe, this stalls a child’s progression through their deep-wave sleep cycles and can reduce nightly secretion of Growth Hormone (with its body and appetite building effects). ,

Parents report their slender kids show little interest in food, prefer soft or bland foods, or chew their foods endlessly at mealtimes. The range of ‘acceptable’ foods become increasingly limited as the child ages, and family mealtimes become a laborious, long and painful affair for everyone. (A word of warning: when correctly treated, these same parents often wish they had a lock for the pantry door, as growth, appetite and interest in food – as well as grocery bills! – skyrocket!).


This helpful guide from the talented dieticians at highlights the following signs:

  1. Limited food selection. Resistant eaters often accept only 10-15 foods or fewer.
  2. Limited food groups. Refusing one or more food groups is fairly common among resistant eaters.
  3. Anxiety and/or tantrums when presented with new foods. Resistant eaters may gag or become ill when presented with new foods.


  • Medical issues such as adenoid/tonsil overgrowth, food allergies, or gut issues
  • Poor oral-motor skills, jaw or tongue control
  • Sensory processing skills; sensitivity to smell and taste
  • Environmental factors , including accidentally  unhelpful habits such as allowing daytime grazing or inappropriate mealtime behavior.


If adenoid and tonsil overgrowth is at play, early diagnosis is best. The signs to ok out for include:

  • snoring, gasps or ‘breath pauses’ during sleep
  • mouth-breathing and grinding
  • back to back colds, or the ‘snotty nose that never ends’
  • restless, unrefreshing or ‘very active’ sleep with sleep-walking/talking, night terrors or bed-wetting
  • disruptive, combative or inattentive daytime behaviour* (see below).


  1. Involve the child in food preparation to help learn about the food outside mealtimes.
  2. Incorporate fun, play-based interactions with food to reduce anxiety. Everyone learns better when they are not stressed – ‘food time’ includes looking, smelling, touching, tasting and eating.
  3. Don’t give up! Research shows it takes up to 15 exposures on every sensory stage such as viewing, smelling, touching and tasting the food, before some children will accept a food into their diet.
  4. Help your child keep a food journal. Children who cannot read yet can draw pictures of the food they are learning about.
  5. Implement gradual changes to familiar foods. Vary the temperature, texture, shape or taste and involve the child in the process to help her accept a wider variety foods.

© Copyright // All rights reserved

Dr Kristy Fraser-Kirk

Paediatric + Adult ENT Surgeon

Advanced Ear + Hearing Implant Surgeon

#evolveENT #healthykidshappyfamilies

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* Remember! In isolation, or if occurring only intermittently, many of the above symptoms may simply be part of normal childhood development. Childhood is not a disease, after all, and symptom lists are just that.

So don’t panic!

Simply observe resistant eaters mindfully, watch for symptom clusters and seek a measured assessment from your specialist GP or a reputable ENT if you are worried your child ticks ‘too many’ of the above boxes.