10 Tips for Dealing With Young Picky Eaters


Is your young child a picky eater? Some kids simply don’t seem to have much of an appetite. Other children seem reluctant to try anything new, and insist on eating the same foods all of the time. If your child happens to be a picky eater, you are not alone. The problem of picky eaters is widespread. Many parents are forced to deal with it. Fortunately, there are ways of persuading a child to eat more or try new foods.

1. Relax

Children are a bit like dogs in that they can sense your mood. What’s more, children often foster the same mood as their parent or parents. Hence if you are anxious about the meal, you will pass that anxiety directly to your child. This will make them less likely to cooperate with you. Try to make sure you are in a relaxed frame of mind at meal times. Ideally you should offer your child a decent variety of healthy foods in a calm setting. When you give your child a meal, do not make a big deal about it. Simply put the food on their plate, and wait to see what happens.

2. Routine

Young children tend to thrive on routine. Knowing what to expect and when it will happen makes children feel more secure. For this reason, it is prudent to supply meals and snacks at exactly the same time each day. Because children need routine, you should avoid serving meals that are completely unfamiliar. If you want your child to try something new, introduce the strange food alongside things you know he will eat. Let’s assume, for example, that you want your child to try carrots. If you know your child really likes chicken and mashed potatoes, you could try serving the carrots in conjunction with those two favorites.

3. Avoiding Sugary Snacks and Dessert Incentives

When your child refuses to eat the meal you put in front of him, it can be tempting to offer sugary snacks as a way of filling him up. If you do this, your child will be even less apt to fill up with nutritious food at mealtimes. Some parents offer their child a dessert as an incentive for eating their main meal. This is also a mistake because it reinforces the child’s notion that dessert is the best part of a meal. Remember that if your child learns bad eating habits early in life, he will be more likely to develop diabetes and other obesity-related diseases later on.

4. Portion Size

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and lost your appetite because the portion you were served was excessively large? Some adults get overwhelmed when they see food portions they cannot handle, and kids are no different. When you are serving your child a meal, make sure you consider portion sizes. Young children only have small stomachs. If you serve them more food than they can handle, they are likely to recoil at the idea of having to eat such a huge quantity. Remember that if your child is still hungry, he can always have a second serving. Hence there is no need to put so much food on your child’s plate.

5. No Distractions

Meals should be quiet affairs during which the focus is on eating. Therefore you should ensure that there will be no distractions during mealtimes. Do not let your child bring books, toys or games to the dinner table. Make sure the television is switched off when you eat. Do not allow your picky eater to carry on with his siblings at the dinner table when he should be eating. If your child gets distracted, he will want to play rather than eat his meal.

6. Don’t Force the Issue

When your child refuses to eat or try something new, it can be tempting to threaten him with a punishment if he does not comply with your wishes. Try not to force your child to eat if he does not want to do so. If you force the issue, your child will only become more stubborn when it comes to food. You should encourage your child to try new foods by talking about the color and texture. It is also a good idea to put the new food on your child’s plate several times, regardless of whether he eats it or not. By doing this, you will make the new food seem familiar to your child. If your child gets used to seeing a certain food on his plate, he will be more likely to try it.

7. Keeping Watch

If your child is fussy about food, you may worry whether or not he is getting all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he needs in his diet. If you are concerned about your child’s nutrition, you should monitor everything he eats over a period of one week. If what you see leads you to believe your child really isn’t getting all he needs from his food, consider buying him a good multivitamin.

8. A Good Example

Children tend to mimic the actions and behaviors of their parents. Therefore a parent who is finicky about food cannot expect their child to have an adventurous attitude at mealtimes. If you want your child to have a nutritionally well-balanced diet, you will have to show him that you are open-minded about food. You can do this by being willing to try new things, and eating a healthy balance of different foods.

9. Childish Taste Buds

Do you now love eating certain foods that tasted awful to you when you were a child? That’s because certain foods do not generally become appetizing until your taste buds have had a chance to mature. Onions, certain cheeses and hot spices are all foods that often taste overwhelmingly strong to a young child. That’s because childish taste buds are very sensitive. When you are preparing meals for your child, be mindful of the fact that some flavors are simply too strong for him.

10. Don’t Cook Separate Meals

If your child is a fussy eater, you might be tempted to cook separate meals for him. Cooking separate dishes for your child is not a good idea. It makes preparing meals more stressful and complicated than it needs to be. You are a parent, not a paid chef in a restaurant. It also gives your child the impression that he can have something different whenever he doesn’t particularly like what the rest of the family is eating. In other words, cooking separate meals may actually reinforce your child’s finicky eating habits.