Picky Eaters and How to Deal with Them

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Picky Eaters and How to Deal with Them

Does this sound familiar?

“He doesn’t eat anything green.”

“My daughter won’t eat food that’s mixed together.”

“She doesn’t like soup.”

You can handle your fussy eaters! Try these tips to help your eaters be a little less picky. Before you know it, they’ll eat anything.

You may be familiar with phrases like: “Thomas only eats chicken nuggets and fries when we go out to eat,” or “Eliza will only eat white foods.” Your child may refuse to eat some types of foods based on their color or texture. This behavior is common between the ages of 2 and 5. Even though your child may be picky, they are probably still healthy if they have plenty of energy and are growing. If you are concerned about their nutrition, talk to your doctor.

Tips for Picky Eaters

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A smiling girl adds cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers to a larger bowl of salad greens. Snapped green beans are in a clear glass bowl are nearby.

Tips for Picky Eaters

Keep Trying. Offer a new food multiple times.

  • If your child doesn’t want new food, that’s okay! You can always try it again later.
  • Many kids need to see and taste a new food several times (15 or more!) before they learn to like it.

Kids learn to like new foods by:

  • Having them offered over and over.
  • Having them served with familiar foods.
  • Seeing friends, older kids, and grown-up eating these foods.
  • Tasting them prepared in different ways.
  • Picking out their food from 2 healthy choices that you offer.
  • Starting with small amounts.

Try new foods in different ways:

  • Serve fruits and vegetables raw with a side of dip.
  • Steam, roast, and bake veggies—and fruits, too!
  • Warm fruits like apples, pears, and peaches for a softer texture.
  • Try frozen or canned fruit—but make sure to find ones packed in 100% juice or water.

Taste new vegetables:

  • If your children are unsure of vegetables, top them with cheese sauces, peanut sauces, ranch dips, and pesto to make them more appealing.
  • Mix vegetables with foods that your kids already like.
  • Try vegetables as pizza toppings for more color and flavor!
  • Hide vegetables in mash potatoes or in sauces like spaghetti sauce.
  • If you find a vegetable that they like, keep serving it!

What does your child eat?

Provide many healthy options, but let kids serve themselves.

  • Kids like to make choices. Let them do that by providing many healthy options that they can choose from.
  • Start out small. Give them a spoonful. If they like it, they can get more.
  • Let children eat how much they would like—whether that be a lot or a little. Forcing them to eat a certain amount will not create a fondness for the food.
  • Have fresh fruit ready to eat:
    • Chop and store fruit in the refrigerator.
    • Store whole fruits on the counter.
    • Have canned fruits in the pantry.
  • Keep salad or easy-to-grab vegetables in the fridge during the week.
  • Store frozen vegetables in the freezer and microwave later.
  • Cookies and crackers can be an occasional treat.

Every child is different.

  • Every kid has different tastes, just like every adult. Some children will be adventurous, and others will need time to get used to new foods. Patience is the key!
  • Because all kids have different tastes, you shouldn’t compare your child’s preferences to others of the same age.

Coping with Picky Eaters

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A young girl, with brown hair and eyes wearing an orange tshirt, is looking at a boy.

Coping with Picky Eaters

Children will grow out of their picky habits, especially if you do not make a big deal out of them. Usually, picky eating habits end before school age. The following are some tips to help deal with your child’s habits in a positive way:

  • If children have the opportunity to pick out their own foods (especially fruits and vegetables), they are more likely to eat the foods.
  • Cook with your child. This is the perfect time for your child to learn about foods and get to taste them. Let your child clean fresh produce, add ingredients, and stir.
  • Give them options. For example, don’t ask your children if they want one vegetable; ask them to pick between two options you give them.
  • Make sure your time at the table is positive and not stressful. If children associate meal times with arguments or stressful situations, they may develop unhealthy attitudes toward food.
  • Make the same meal for everyone. Don’t go out of your way to humor your child’s picky habits. Even if your child misses a meal every now and then, he or she will be OK.

Trying New Foods

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A young boy looks at a sign in a pecan orchard.

Trying New Foods

Your child may find it hard to try new foods, which is very normal. The following are tips to help your child explore new foods:

  • Small portions first. Let children try small portions of food until they warm up to it.
  • One food at a time. Offer only one new food at a time so your child doesn’t become overwhelmed.
  • Be a role model. Try new foods yourself to encourage your child. Make sure to describe the food to your child.
  • New foods first. At the beginning of a meal, children are hungrier. This is the time to serve new foods.
  • It takes time. It can take children many tries before they warm up to a new food. Don’t stop trying.

Making Food Fun

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A man, woman, and two children with buckets harvest pecans at a pecan farm on a sunny day.

Making Food Fun

Getting children interested in cooking is one way to expand their food tastes. Make sure to include your children in cooking. The following are creative ideas to get your child involved in the kitchen:

  • Use a cookie cutter to cut foods into fun shapes.
  • Work with children to invent new combinations for snacks and let them help you create them.
  • Give children credit for foods that they create. For example, name the food after your child (“Brianna’s pasta,” “Joseph’s salad”).