November 5, 2023

Picky eaters: A guide for parents

Written by Dr. Sandy Portko, Early Childhood Expertise

Family Futures Staff
Picky eater
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Picky eating is a common problem that affects children of all ages. It can be frustrating for parents, who may worry that their child is not getting the nutrients they need. However, there are things you can do to help your picky eater eat a more balanced diet.

What is picky eating?

Picky eating is when a child has a limited range of foods that they are willing to eat. This can be due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Sensory sensitivities: Some children have sensory sensitivities that make certain foods unappealing. For example, a child with a texture sensitivity may not like to eat food that is mushy or slimy.
  • Taste preferences: Children develop their own taste preferences over time. Some children simply do not like certain flavors, such as sour or bitter foods.
  • Exposure: Children need to be exposed to new foods multiple times before they will try them. If a child has never tried a vegetable, they are less likely to eat it.
  • Control: Picky eating can also be a way for children to assert their independence. They may refuse to eat certain foods as a way to control their environment.

How to deal with a picky eater

  • Make mealtimes relaxed and enjoyable. Avoid pressuring or bribing your child to eat.
  • Offer a variety of healthy foods at each meal. Include foods from all food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • Let your child help choose and prepare meals. This will make them more likely to try new foods.
  • Be a role model. Eat healthy foods yourself and let your child see you enjoying them.
  • Don’t force your child to eat foods they don’t like. If they refuse to eat something, don’t make a big deal about it. Offer it again another time.

Tips for making healthy foods more appealing to picky eaters

  • Cut food into fun shapes. Use cookie cutters or vegetable peelers to make healthy foods more appealing to picky eaters.
  • Serve food with a dip or sauce. This can make bland foods more flavorful and appealing.
  • Hide healthy foods in other foods. For example, you could grate vegetables into smoothies or muffins.
  • Make mealtimes interactive. Let your child help you decorate their plate or make a face out of their food.
  • Offer small portions. Picky eaters are more likely to try new foods if they are offered small portions.

When to be concerned

Picky eating is usually a phase that children outgrow. However, if your child’s picky eating is severe or causing them to lose weight, it is important to talk to their doctor. They may be able to rule out any underlying medical conditions and offer additional advice and support.

Remember, it is important to be patient and consistent when dealing with a picky eater. It may take some time, but you can help your child develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Want more parenting tips? Check out our other blogs here –

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