Tips for Picky Eaters

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Tips for Picky Eaters

Every parent can emphasize the long, uphill battles to expose and encourage their growing kids to new, healthy foods. Meal times require lots of patience and repetition. Sometimes become quite messy. It is important to remember you and your family are not alone in this healthy journey. Read below for tips for families when exploring new foods and how to keep up the encouragement when your kids are rejecting healthy foods. 

Tips for Exploring New Foods:

  • When grocery shopping: let your kid pick out the new healthy food they are going to try 
  • In the kitchen: Let your kid help prepare the new food they chose from the store.
    • While not all kitchen activities may be age-appropriate, helping in the kitchen/meal preparation includes setting the table, passing food to others or cleaning after the meal. 
  • During the meal: Try eating the new food first to show them you like it. Then, let them try it while encouraging a positive response. 
  • During the meal: Depending on the age of your child, let them feed themselves, including deciding the portion size of the new food to try. 
  • Offer two healthy options: when possible, including 1 food they like and 1 new healthy food. 

Tips for Food Refusal:
Here are a few tips to remember when new healthy foods don’t get the positive reaction you were hoping for: 

  • Try not to react to negative behaviors when your kid refuses to eat foods. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to make a second meal. Even though it is hard, your child will learn the importance of eating nutritious meals. Wrap and save the meal, should they change their mind later.  
  • Try to serve the new food again after a couple of days. For some kids, it takes up to 10 exposures to a new food before they can begin to develop a preference for the food. 
  • Try serving in different textures, tastes and cooking methods. 
    • This is an opportunity to expand your and your family’s cooking skills to find healthy recipes everyone will eat and enjoy 
    • This includes cutting healthy foods into shapes and sizes that are easiest for your child to pick up and eat throughout the day. 

While you may try a tip a few times, it is important to remember this is also a lesson in patience, negotiation and diligence. No single tip is guaranteed to turn a crunchy vegetable into a favorite, but the combination of tips over time may be successful in instilling foundational healthy eating habits. 

Resources: Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters | American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/picky-eaters/index.html

About the Author:
Camille Range is a registered dietitian nutritionist who empowers families, communities, and the next generation of healthcare providers to lead healthy lives through nutrition, health, and wellness. She received a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Master’s in Public Health from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, TX. She currently serves as the Community Nutritionist at Martha’s Table.

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