10 Strategies for Picky Eaters

by Madison Bess

10 Strategies for Picky Eaters

Although we envision mealtime being a wonderful hour of laughter and conversation, we know better to think that with young children at the table. Children can often be picky eaters causing contention and worries for parents. We have outlined 10 helpful strategies for helping your picky eater navigate through the difficulties of mealtime. 

1. Start small
If you are introducing new foods start small. We aren’t talking about a handful of peas. Start with one or two peas with a full meal you know they like. This will make trying the new food a little less intimidating. 

2. Let them play with their food
Many steps go into trying new foods before a child puts it in their mouths. Let children move the food around on their plate, pull it apart with their fingers, or sniff it. Getting more familiar with how it looks and feels will help make your children more comfortable. 

3. The rotation rule
Help your child by avoiding the habit of eating the same foods every day. If you have his favorite vegetable one day, offer a different vegetable the next and let them know they can have their favorite tomorrow. Try to avoid offering the same foods for two days in a row. 

4. Talk about ingredients
Being open and honest about the ingredients in their food will help children feel safe about what they are putting into their body. If they respond negatively to a certain ingredient, help them to understand more about that ingredient and what it does for our bodies. 

5. Be consistent 
Keep trying to introduce new foods over and over. It takes time for kids to trust and accept. If you are tired of having contentious dinner, try offering the new foods at snack time. 

6. Hold back on snacks and drinks
While introducing new foods try to keep the snacks and drinks at a minimum. Children are more receptive to trying something new because they're truly hungry. Some parents are worried if their kids get too hungry, but your kids will be okay if you keep them to three meals a day with a few snacks. 

7. Encourage conversation
Don’t focus so much on the meal but rather other conversations. Try to get the focus and pressure off your child’s meal. You can try asking them interesting questions or ask how their day has been. If they aren’t old enough to talk, you can tell them a story or share interesting details of your day. 

8. Stay calm
Some children avoid foods for the attention that their behavior brings. Keep calm and try not to give any negative attention to your child’s bad behavior during meal. 

9. Focus on flavor
Not all picky eaters want bland foods. Some pickier eaters look for flavor or different textures. Try to cook unwanted foods in a way your child prefers. This is a good way to also introduce new foods. 

10. Build on small victories 
If your child loves pizza, you might transition from pizza to pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, to grilled cheese with tomato soup, to a cheese quesadilla with salsa. Select foods based on shape, texture, and color. Crispy french fries to sweet potato fries, chicken sticks to fish sticks. Plain pancakes or waffles to waffles with jelly or peanut butter to PB&J. Try not to rush from one food or texture to the next. Give it some time for your child to process the new food on their plate. 

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