Nutrition Notes: What to do when you have a picky eater at home

While having a picky child may be stressful, it is (in most cases) a normal part of development. Disliking a new fruit or vegetable the first time they try it is a very normal reaction. As long as their refusal doesn’t involve all foods, it’s generally not a problem.

In this case, persistence counts. In order to feel comfortable eating something, the child often has to become familiar with it. So make sure the food is visible by having it on the table and available to them. If many attempts have been made to introduce a food to the child and they continually reject it, consider taking it off the table and reintroducing it in about a month’s time.

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters. Getting your child to try new foods can often feel like a chore, but you can make this challenge easier by using the following strategies:

1. Don’t become a short order cook. If your child is refusing to eat certain foods, you may be tempted to provide a separate meal. However, giving your child too many options for meals might only complicate things. If they know you’ll make them something else they already like, they won’t take the opportunity to try new foods.

2. Make mealtime a sit-down event. When kids are constantly eating on the go, they get used to fast-food items and other foods that can be easily taken on the road. These typically do not include a variety of fruits and vegetables. Plus, getting kids used to eating meals at the table gives them the opportunity to try new foods.

3. Plan your snacks. Allowing kids to graze all day long might cause them to not be hungry when it comes time for dinner and not be willing to try new foods. Separate snacks from meals and make snack time a planned, sit-down event. And there should be at least an hour or two between a snack and a meal to allow time for the child to become hungry again.

4. Don’t make a big issue of it. Besides raising your own stress level, making a big fuss over a picky eater can be pointless. If a child realizes that refusing food gets them a lot of attention, they might keep doing it, especially at a younger age.

5. Make it fun. Consider making it ‘Yellow Day,’ when you and the kids have to wear something yellow and also pick out a yellow fruit or vegetable to eat. Involving the kids in choosing the foods, and maybe even helping to cook them, can also spark their interest and is another way to build familiarity with a new food.

6. Hide the ingredients. You can easily get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables by hiding them in foods they already enjoy. While it’s a great way to get kids to fulfill their daily servings, it’s important to recognize that this should not be your only approach to encouraging healthy eating. Kids need to acquire a taste for fruits and vegetables alone, so that they don’t grow up avoiding them.