What should I do about my picky eater?

It’s important to respect your child’s appetite. If they aren’t hungry, don’t force a snack or meal, and don’t bribe them to eat certain foods (“eat your broccoli”) or clean their plate. You want to make sure that food and mealtimes are not associated with frustration or anxiety. You could consider serving smaller portions (with the option for refills) so that your child becomes aware of their own fullness cues.

It is recommended, however, to stick to a routine. Meals and snacks at the same time daily are great — if your kid declines one, they can get nutrition from the next snack or meal. And skip juice and milk between meals, as kids can fill up on these beverages and “ruin” their dinner.

When it comes to pickiness, patience is key. Young children need time and exposure to new foods before they get used to them. Instead of pitching every new food as delicious, appeal to your child’s senses. Discuss the shape, smell, texture, or color of a food. Compare it to something else they like.

Keep exposing them to new (and healthy) foods until they become familiar. It may take several meals before they are ready to try the new food, so don’t give up after the first rejection. When introducing a new food, many parents have had success with serving the new food along with a “safe” food on their plate (something familiar that you know they like).

You can make introducing new foods fun! Once your child is old enough, involve them in choosing and preparing dinner. Ask your child to go grocery shopping with you, and let them pick out their melons, fruits, and vegetables from a vibrant produce display.

You can also set a good example, eating with your child, and eating the same meal, if possible. Turning off the TV and other distractions and eating together could help encourage healthy habits, and the act of demonstration will make them more inclined to follow along.

As always, try to be patient, as this type of change is gradual. It is normal for kids to take a while to get used to new textures, flavors, and smells.

This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.