Are You Contributing to Your Child's Picky Eating?

June 5, 2020

     Your child is happy, healthy, growing well, and an honor student. But they are SO PICKY, and this causes so much stress in your family! I see it all the time in toddlers, elementary age children, and teenagers. You dream of making one meal for the family that everyone enjoys and doesn’t complain about, right? You can’t wait for the day when chicken nuggets aren’t a staple in your freezer anymore! It may seem like an impossible battle, but there ARE things you can do to combat, and not contribute to, your child’s picky eating.

     Here is a question us pediatric dietitians hear a lot: “is it too late to work on picky eating with my child?” The answer is no! It’s never too late. Ideally, we start with gold-standard feeding practices as soon as baby starts taking solids that will help prevent picky eating. Unfortunately, feeding kids is just not a mainstream topic that parents learn about before the time comes, or even when the time comes! Our healthcare system does a great job of preparing us for pregnancy and birth itself, but when it comes to feeding we are pretty much on our own. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and that’s where I come in! Keep reading for five tips you can implement right away to take meal time from disaster scene to smooth sailing.

1. One of the most important things to realize is that picky eating it not your fault, or your child’s fault. Picky eating does have a genetic component. It’s also one of the most common feeding issues among children. I can almost guarantee you that your child is not weird or different because they are picky. Roll with it, and don’t put a lot of pressure on them to eat certain foods. The more pressure you put on them, the less they will eat. Foster a healthful food environment (serve fruits and veggies with every meal, for example) and demonstrate healthy eating behaviors yourself.

2. Stop catering. How many times have you made a delicious meal, your child whines and refuses, so you jump up and make them chicken nuggets or a sandwich? When you do this, you are teaching your child that if they put up enough of a fight, they will get their way in the end. They’ll never try a new food, because they know if they hold out long enough they will get their chicken nuggets. So what do you do? Let them starve? No way! Keep reading.

3. Cook one meal, but make sure there’s something on the table that your picky child likes. Feel free to whip out a sauce or a dip to help that grilled chicken go down. If all they will eat for vegetables is cucumbers, put them on the table! The key is that the cucumbers aren’t just for picky Joey, they are for everyone. We don’t want Joey to feel too special at mealtimes.

4. Limit variety of snacks in the house. I hear this one all the time. “I have apples and bananas on the counter, but all he eats are the granola bars and fruit snacks!” Our food environment makes it very easy to stockpile a huge variety of snacks in the house. And when you can shop wholesale and get a 36 pack for cheap? Even better! Or is it? When you keep an endless supply of sugary junk foods in the house, of course the kids are going to go for those items. We know that most kids don’t come close to meeting their fruit and veggie servings each day. If they aren’t eating those foods at meals, and they aren’t eating them at snacks, when do we expect them to eat these foods? We need to make a major mental shift that snacks don’t need to be sugary, processed foods. Snacks should include some fresh produce!

5. Don’t push your own food beliefs or preferences onto your child. If you express to your child that you don’t like Brussels sprouts, they will decide (before trying them) that they also don’t like Brussels sprouts. If you are a chronic dieter yourself and avoid lots of foods, and you don’t expose your child to those foods, you are limiting their palate to foods that may actually be quite healthful.

I hope you learned some new ideas from this post! If you are feeling completely lost in how to combat this issue in your household, please contact me! I’d love to help you get on the right food foot!