10 Tips to Help You Prevent Picky Eating

Jillian Ondreyka, MPH, RDN, IFNCP, IBCLC

1. Offer a wide variety of foods right from the start.

Research shows that the more times kids are exposed to foods, the more likely they are to like and eat the foods. Having they look at the new food without pressuring them is helpful, then after that they still will likely need to taste it a few times to accept it. This is normal!

2. Don’t pressure kids to eat.

Multiple studies like this one and this one actually show that pressuring kids to eat backfires and leads to them eating less or forming negative associations with food. Try your best not to beg them to take another bite, clean their plate, or force food into their mouth.

3. Try not to make separate meals.

We understand family meals are not always a possibility and you often just need to serve kids their own food. However, whenever you can try to just serve one meal for everyone and not make separate meals for the kids. Remember your role is to offer foods, their role is to decide if and how much to eat. The earlier you get into the habit and your child understands there is just one meal and they won’t get an alternative, the better. Remember you are not a short order cook! If you are worried they will go to bed hungry, try our tips on offering safe foods.

4. Set a schedule.

Read more about this here. Offering meals and snacks on a regular schedule actually encourages kids to eat better! A good eating pattern for young kids is eating 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day. Ask your Foublie coach for a more specific schedule.

5. Be a good role model.

Kids are always watching, and you have probably experienced them mimicking your behaviors. Studies have shown that kids will eat more fruits and vegetables when they see parents eat more fruits and vegetables. Try new foods with your kids and describe what you like about them (i.e. the color, texture, aroma, etc.). This will help keep the experience positive and help your kids be more open to new foods and experiences.

6. Make mealtime a priority.

Turn off distractions like the TV or phones until the meal is over. Benefits of family dinners may include better academic performance, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of obesity.

7. Offer healthy choices.

For example, you can ask “Would you like broccoli or carrots for dinner?” Make fruits and veggies easily accessible options for meals and snacks.

8. Involve kids in the meals.

Get your kids involved in the cooking process. (No, it doesn’t mean just baking and throwing flour everywhere!). Talk about the food you are making to help your kids get excited about tasting new foods. Some Ideas for Kitchen activities by age group:
  • 2-year olds: rinse fruits and veggies, place items in trash, tear lettuce or greens, make faces out of fruits and veggies
  • 3-year olds: add ingredients, stir foods, count items
  • 4-year olds: help measure ingredients, crack eggs, set the table, help assemble sandwiches
  • 5-year olds: measure liquids, cut soft fruits with a butter knife, use an eggbeater
  • Want even more ideas? 

9. Make food taste good!

The most predictive factor of kids liking foods is the way it tastes. You can try cooking the foods in different ways to change the taste. Another example is to pair bitter veggies with sweet fruit.

10. Play is OK!

Let them play and eat with food! You might be surprised by how much kids like making and eating their own food creations!  

Next Up: What are normal portions? / Is my kid getting enough?

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