Top 5 Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

While picky eating can be common in babies, there are many tips that parents can follow to help their child outgrow this habit and in turn, benefit from a diverse and healthier diet.

Picky eating is common in babies, but your child’s picky eating habits do not have to be a lifelong challenge. Waiting idly for your child to grow out of it can lead to a lifetime of poor diet and health.

Without exposure to certain foods, your child could be at a greater risk for developing food allergies. In addition, a diverse diet has many additional benefits for your child including a lowered risk for childhood obesity.

The following tips can help your child enjoy a diverse diet:

  1. Food Exposure

Getting your child comfortable with food may be the first step your child needs. Having patience in exploring food choices with your child is key.

Aversion to certain foods can start even before it hits your child's taste buds. Offering opportunities for your child to see new foods brings familiarity. Children may need upwards of a dozen exposures to a new food to be interested in trying it.

This means being patient in letting your child observe, touch or even help prepare the food.

If you are exposing an infant to new foods simply having them around the food while others enjoy it is

  1. Be A Role Model

Children often want what they can't have. Parents of picky eaters already know this, yet this fact can be used to their advantage.

Observing a loved one or role model eating a food is part of food exposure. Positive remarks about the food and frequency are important. It is harder to expect your child to eat broccoli when they have never seen it on your plate.

Let your child see a new food several times before offering it to them. Show them that you enjoy it as well and don't shy away from discussing it.

Telling your child what you like about your food, the texture, and how it tastes is a good start. Removing some of the mystery from new foods can ease cautious children.

  1. Foster mindful eating habits.

Mindful eating is a habit that can start at any age. The importance of food that is good for the body and enjoyable, is a lesson that will serve your child for years to come.

Grocery store trips and food preparation as a family lets your child feel connected to the food they eat. Age-appropriate tasks such as washing vegetables, mixing or measuring are great for exposure.

The key to eating mindfully is to find foods with function and are enjoyable. Letting your child try several healthy options with the same purpose is a compromise. Your child may be averse to spinach, but there are many leafy greens they can try with similar benefits.

Never be forceful in getting your child to accept the importance of a food or food group. A healthy relationship with food is invaluable when raising healthy kids.

  1. Be Creative!

Presentation isn't just for fancy restaurants. Children are more likely to eat new foods that have been presented to them in fun shapes, or colors.

Green eggs may be more interesting to some children than an egg presented in the traditional way. Adding themes and pairing alongside favorites is another option.

Think out of the box, but avoid introducing too many new foods in the same meal.

Many parents have turned to bento box meals. These little boxed meals are full of balanced and cute foods that will surprise your child. Letting your child prepare a meal they can't wait to devour may help them forget about the healthy bits inside.

Another creative strategy is to add new or resisted foods into meals they already enjoy. Peas in risotto, or a leaf of kale in their banana smoothie. This allows your child to become familiar with the new tastes hidden in something else.

  1. Be Positive!

Your child has a picky eating habit, but they do not have to be a picky eater. Letting your child know that being a picky eater is even an option is a mistake.

Accepting when your child doesn't eat can be difficult. Especially when the picky eating has gone on for a while. The same way disappointment is expressed for not eating, enthusiasm and support should come for eating.

Positive reinforcement for a completed meal can include playtime, games, or fun activities. Verbal support and understanding during mealtime is instrumental.

Eating a new food may take longer for some children, let them take their time. Others may anticipate getting a new replacement if they take long enough to eat. If the meal isn't finished within a reasonable time remove it as you normally would. A second meal should not be offered as a replacement.

Your child may not be hungry, and if they are they can return to the original meal or a similar alternative. Replacing a healthy or new food with a true favorite does not fix anything. It will only reinforce the idea that better food will come if they wait.

Rewarding a child with food for a completed meal is also unacceptable. Guaranteeing desert for a clean plate does not help your child overcome a bad habit. It can do more harm by propping up unhealthy food.

A Healthy Start For Baby

You are not alone in the fight against food aversion. For more tips learn more from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to see the faces and stories of others dealing with picky eating.

Keep working with your child to find foods that are good for them and taste great!

Introduce Allergens Safely and Easily with Ready. Set. Food!

All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.