child eating

6 Effective Ways to Help Picky Eaters

Kids who are fussy about their food create a great deal of stress in the household. What starts as a child who is mildly selective about food can morph into a kid who has a very short list of menu items. When this happens, parents may find themselves cooking special meals for that child, apart from what the rest of the family is eating. This is not a practical or sustainable way to feed a family. Moreover, this finicky kiddo may not be getting all the nutrition necessary to grow and thrive by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. So, what can you do to broaden the palate of a kid whose nose crinkles every time you serve something new. Here are some ideas to help you win the battle against  stubborn palates.

Tips to Make Picky Eaters Try New Foods  

First and foremost, understand that picky eating is quite common among preschool children.

Some studies have indicated that as many as 50% of kids in this age bracket are selective about food. In most of these cases, the children will outgrow this behavior and learn to love a wide variety of food.

toddler eating


Don't introduce too many new foods all at the same time.

For example, if your child love chicken nuggets and french fries, try serving these favorites alongside one additional food item that isn't on the favorite list. Encourage your little one to have a few bites of the new food in addition to their preferred go-to items.


baby in high chair


Rule out a food sensory issue.

Sometimes a processing disorder can be disguised as picky eating when in fact it's a condition that needs to be treated with therapy. During mealtime, if your child frequently cries, gags, refuses to eat, demonstrates strange food preferences, or has delayed food milestones (i.e. difficulty chewing and swallowing solid foods), these are all signs of a food sensory disorder. Consult with your child's pediatrician who will likely refer you to a nutritionist for further evaluation and assistance.


baby being fed



Take the opportunity to talk to your child about your own food decisions.

By being a good role model, your own habits may eventually rub off on your kids. Make the topic of conversation about you, not about your child. When you opt for a piece of fruit over junk food, verbalize the reason for your choice. Routinely talk about good health and taking care of your body by what you put into it. Ideally, you want your children to make healthy decisions about what to eat on their own, not because they are forced to eat certain foods at the dinner table.


family eating


Remove the power struggle from mealtime.

Rather than demand your children eat certain foods, engage them in the process of shopping and preparation. This may not be convenient to do all of the time, but it's worth a try on a day when activities are light. Ask your child to sit down and look at pictures of recipes and choose something that looks good. Empowerment goes a long way in the battle to open your child's mind to new foods.


child eating


Shift the discussion to characters in children's books. 

Kids' books about picky eaters offer a lot of important lessons about the value of eating a healthy, varied diet. By reading children's books with characters who are fussy about food, you take the emphasis off of your own child and place it on the characters in the book. This removes the tension and allows the child to talk freely about the topic without discussing their own habits. Eventually, the food-positive messaging will influence your little reader's decision to try new things.


picky eater

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