1. Be Patient and Calm
It is very normal to offer or need to expose children to new foods over 10 times before they attempt to try it.
2. Be flexible.
Focus on what they already like or make adjustments to foods/textures that are challenging for them. Does your child not like crunchy foods? Then swap out apple slices for applesauce.
Let them pick out fruits and veggies from the store and show excitement and offer lots of praise for their choice. Let them help prepare meals (stir, add seasoning, etc). Encourage them to touch, smell, lick, or taste the new food.
Offering your picky eater their own meal only encourages them to be picky. During family meal time, try serving a meal that includes something they already enjoy with a new kind of food. Remember to frequently and gently encourage trying the new food.
5. Be Creative.
New foods can look “weird or scary” to kids. Be open to trying new recipes and presentations - you can use simple things, such as a cookie cutter to make the new food look silly, fun, and exciting.
6. Offer two choices at a time.
Try asking, “Would you like carrots or broccoli?” instead of, “What do you want for dinner?” or “Would you like carrots with dinner?”
7. Less is more.
Having a lot of something new can be overwhelming and intimidating to children. Try only incorporating one new food at a time and starting out with small amounts. Put one or two carrots or a few peas on their plate at a time, then slowly increase the amount as they get more comfortable with eating them.
Things to Avoid:
It is unhelpful to force your child to eat certain foods. Try having realistic expectations for your kids about how much they “should eat.” Though the size of the stomach varies, for some it is about the size of their clenched fist. Forcing your kids to eat usually leads to the child eating less. Be mindful about negotiating and making deals with your kids. For example, “Just two more bites and then you can have ice cream” can easily turn into children asking “how many bites until I can have ice cream?” Overall, approaches like these are unhelpful for the long term. Some children may even start negotiating other unlikable tasks in exchange for a reward, such as getting ready or brushing their teeth. Try utilizing verbal praise to let them know how proud you are of them, or give non-food related rewards.
While picky eating in children can be normal, there are some instances in which it may be a more serious problem. Always talk to your child’s health care provider about any nutritional concerns you may have.
Phrases That Help and Hinder
Healthy Tips for Picky Eaters
Age Appropriate Kitchen Activities