Need Help with a Picky Eater?
Check out these 5 easy picky eating tips. You’ve got this!
Remember that your role is to offer them healthy choices, not to make them eat
Between the ages of 1 and 3, kids are learning their independence and this includes eating. Children are realizing they are their own person with preferences. As frustrating as this phase can be, there are definitely things you can do to make it easier! One study found that most children’s pickiness decreases around age 6. In the meantime, it might help to know:
- In the toddler years, energy expenditure decreases significantly. Kids will eat less and focus on foods they already know.
- Kids are intuitive and will eat what they need. Your kid may not be hungry at mealtime.
- It might not be about food at all, but your kid is testing the limits.
- It is not your job to make them eat, it is your job to keep offering. Try some of the tips below.
Get your kid to try and like new foods
Exposure to a wide variety of foods is key. But new foods for a picky eater is overwhelming. This is where your patience and persistence comes in. It can take over 10 times for a child to like a new food! So try serving the same food in the same way 10 times. Texture and taste is important. It is very common for a child to like a vegetable one way, but presented in a different form feel differently.
Tip: Serve a new food with a safe food on the same plate. Your kid does not have to eat the new food, but you can ask him or her to touch the new food, lick it, spit it out if they don’t like it. Keep patient and persistent!
Don’t pressure your child to eat
Try not to say things like “just one more bite” or “if you have this vegetable you can have dessert”. We know doing this actually backfires and has been shown in research time and time again! If this is the only tactic that works for you, swap out food rewards to stickers.
Tip: Take a deep breathe. Your kid will feed off your stress and that will make meal time harder.
Set a schedule
Offering meals and snacks on a regular schedule actually encourages kids to eat better! Research shows that a regular routine promotes stability, helping kids to better build trust and learn healthier habits. A good eating pattern for young kids older than 12 months is eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day. Try to serve food at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Tip: To help all caregivers of your child stick to the same routine, write the schedule on a piece of paper and put it on your refrigerator. This is a team effort that will include your daycare, sitters, partners, grandparents and more.
Make food fun
Fun is important! There are lots of ways you can bring some joy back to mealtime. Some successful strategies are to:
- Use food picks or chopsticks instead of utensils or fingers
- Serve dinner in a different container, like in a muffin tin
- Give choices like dips. Dunking foods into a dip can be a fun way to give your child autonomy at mealtime.
- Use cookie cutters to cut food into fun shapes or characters.