Issue 15 • July 2013

Tips and Tricks for Picky Eaters

As parents, we want our children to eat better, but we often lose patience and find ourselves pulling our hair out at dinner time because our child won’t eat what is being served. Don’t give up! By practicing patience and using these tips and tricks you can get your child to dive into a variety of healthy foods.

Persistence counts

It is completely normal for children to avoid trying new foods, especially between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. The number one reason children avoid trying new foods is because they are afraid of it. For children avoiding unfamiliar foods is safe. Avoid nagging them the first time and encourage them to try again next time! Nagging them will only cause them to avoid the food even more. If your child does not eat a food the first time, don’t assume the next time they will not like it. It may take up to 15 or more times before your child will try the new food.

Be a good example

As a parent or caregiver, do you consider your diet balanced? Our children are looking up to us and watching our every move, especially during meal times. If you expect your child to eat a better diet, then you too may need to adapt a healthier diet.

Offer Variety

It is important to start offering a variety of foods at an early age. The same thing goes with using a variety of textures. Some examples of common foods with different textures are crunchy apples, soft carrots, soups, and yogurt. Try different cooking methods, such as steaming and roasting to modify texture and taste of foods. Make the plate colorful! A colorful plate is fun and exciting! Choosing variety of colors for their plate will also provide their body with nutrients like vitamin A, folate, iron, vitamin C, calcium, and fiber.

Let them choose

Give your child the opportunity to pick out a new vegetable or fruit each week. Children want independence, especially toddlers. By encouraging them to choose a new fruit and vegetable they may be more willing to try new foods.

Throw out the junk

This is my favorite. How many times do you find yourself trying to get your child to eat his peas, but there is a bag of chips on the table or offered at dinner and he only wants to eat the chips. It is hard to compare the greasy, salty taste of a bag of chips to an apple. Your children may start refusing to eat the healthier foods if there are fatty, sugary or salty foods available.

Set meal and snack times

Children need structure at meal times in order to help improve eating habits. Children want routine because it makes them feel safe and secure. Try to avoid giving kids snacks 1 hour before meal times. This way they will come to the table hungry and ready to eat what you are serving!

Don’t be a short order cook

We are busy enough as parents! If you are making five meals for one dinner, then stop! You are only creating a problem for yourself and for the future of your child. Practice offering 3-4 food groups at each meal. This will give your child the ability to choose from what is on the table and remember it may take up to 15 times before your child may eat it! If your child misses one or two meals, don’t worry! Children will eat when they are hungry and will most likely make up for it at the next meal time.
Create a pleasant atmosphere at meal times
Don’t get upset over spilled milk! Meal time should be a happy and social occasion. Give positive feedback when your child exhibits good behavior or tries a new food. Keep the TV off during meal times. This will distract them from food and discourage interaction with food and family at the table.

Cook with your kids

Don’t start teaching your kids how to cook when they are leaving for college. Start now! Cooking with your kids will get them more excited and willing to try new foods.

Recommended Books for Parents of Picky Eaters

The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals
Author: Missy Chase Lapine and Anastassios Koumbourlis
Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense: 1st Edition
Author: Ellyn Satter
How to Get Your Kid to Eat But Not Too Much
Author: Ellyn Satter

For more information about the specialized nutrition counseling that Laura offers, please call 904.419.3773 or visit

Laura Rellihan

Laura Rellihan

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