How to Deal with Picky Eaters

How to Deal with Picky Eaters

Our kids will always make us swell with pride. Because they are ours in the making. But, in the throes of growing up to be good-eaters, we can count on having our hands full! So, here’s some tips on how to deal with picky eaters.

Kids will often times become by nature, picky eaters, and for many reasons. They will often model their parents’ fussy eating habits. More recent research has shown that children will often be picky eaters when the parents have punished, bribed, or rewarded their children’s eating behavior. While it may sound harsh and perhaps pointed toward the parents, it should be the goal of all family eating for the parents to try—in a positive fashion—new foods on a regular basis while encouraging the new taste and texture. But pure discipline should probably never be a part of the process.

Your child should choose from a variety of age appropriate foods at mealtime; as, a fruit, vegetable, starch, and/or protein. a family’s meals should never be limited to only the child’s favorite foods. Children may need to be offered a particular food 10-15 times(!) before they will try it.

Many times children will not be eating during mealtime because of the added things you are offering between meals. And we’re not just talking about snacks, but also high calorie drinks, including juice, or soda. Most children will do fine at mealtime, if they are given 4-oz. juice and 24-oz. milk per day, in addition to their mealtime offerings. Beverages that do not have any nutritional value are not recommended even as a periodic fluid.

In addition, children need to have a routine eating schedule. The body is most accommodating when the food is offered at the same time every day. Children also should not go more than 3 hours between meals. If a small snack needs to be served, than that is a good idea halfway through the morning or afternoon. And, if your child chooses to skip a meal or a snack, then they can wait for a the next meal without any worry by parents. It is good practice not to feed children every time they desire.

All eating scheduled mealtimes should be pleasant. Parents may be coming home from work, or may have had an exhausting day, they should try to make the time with their children a happy time.

Three most basic responses children have are to: thirst, fatigue, and hunger. Many children have a hard time figuring out their particular need, and will need your help figuring this question out. “Am I hungry, thirsty, or tired?” Or all of the above!

While raising children, it may be best to accept their one particular “quirk” about eating. Children may need to eat a sandwich without the crust on, or to have it cut in a certain way. And, while it is important to them today to eat in a certain way, it may not be that way tomorrow.

Lastly, try to avoid being a “short order cook” to your family. If they feel that food is just around the corner, they may be less willing to try your first offerings at dinner. And, part of this is, don’t always offer or even announce what dessert is going to be. Children may begin to feel that the best is being served last.

It’s is not always going to be an easy or pleasant experience dealing with your picky eaters. But stay the course, and in the end, you should be happy with the results. Feeding your growing children is an awesome responsibility. And,you will forever be rewarded.


Rita Larsen Registered Dietitian at Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Rita Larsen, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor

Rita is certified in Positive Psychology, University of Penn; has a BS in Dietetics from Kansas State University; and an Internship and Masters at the Indiana University Medical Center.

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