Children can become picky eaters for a number of reasons. Some children are born more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. However, picky eating habits are more likely to develop when children are being punished, bribed or rewarded for their eating behaviours. The goal for feeding a picky eater should be to try new foods and to keep food from starting a battle. Here are some tips on how to handle a picky eater:

  • Track your child’s food sensitivities and keep them in mind when preparing meals.  Offering them apple slices instead of applesauce or a baked potato instead of mashed potato if they have a problem eating mushy foods.  If you’d like your child to try a “mushy” food, combine it with a crunchy food that she does like.  Give her a cracker to dip in the applesauce.
  • Gently but frequently offer new kinds of foods. In general, children need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it. Simply put new foods next to foods your child already likes. Generally, encourage her to touch, smell, lick, or taste the new food.
  • Respect eating quirks and don’t force your child to eat. Offer several healthy food choices among the foods your child does like at each meal, and let her decide which of these healthy foods to eat and how much to eat. Research has shown that forcing children to eat actually can make picky eating behaviour worse.
  • No nagging or making deals with your child.  “Just two more bites, just two more bites!” “If you eat your vegetables, you will get dessert.” Strategies like these don’t work in the long run. Don’t use food as a reward. Telling your child she can have a cookie if she eats her broccoli only reinforces the appeal of the cookie over the veggies.
  • Avoid giving your child plenty of milk and juice as these will fill them up and they will not be hungry at mealtimes.
  • Serve an age-appropriate portion to your young children.  Keep portions small and then they have the opportunity to ask for more, which also helps them feel in control.
  • Prepare meals together.  Having a hand in making the meal increases the chances that your child will taste her “creation.”  Have your little one assist with measuring, pouring, or stirring.

Remember that your child’s eating habits  are not likely  to change overnight,  but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.