How to Support a Picky Eater

Having a picky eater in the family can be stressful – I speak from experience on this one as one of my children was an extremely picky eater when he was younger. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s still picky at age 9 but he’s more willing to try new things and eats a wider variety of foods now.

Here are 5 practical tips to get a picky eater to try new things!

Offer a food they don’t typically eat with every meal

I know, I know, this one might sound pointless – if they don’t like it, why would I even offer it?

The simple answer is that children (and adults) change their minds from time to time and unless you offer something new, they will never try it.

Start small and ask if your child would be okay with having a bite-sized portion on their plate or beside their plate.

Exposure is the first step!

Model healthy eating habits

Consider sitting down with your kids at meal times to eat with them. Show them the variety of things you are eating and ask if they want to try a bite of anything. Don’t be discouraged if the answer is a big N-O!

You are modelling how to eat a variety and that is important too! And one day, they might just surprise you with a

Y-E-S!

Invite your child/ren to help in the kitchen

Start small and let go of your expectations.

I’m not suggesting you invite your child/ren to make full meals with you but I am suggesting you let them help in an age appropriate way.

Toddlers could help by cutting soft fruits, such as bananas, with a butter knife while older children could be cutting cucumbers, stirring, or whisking. Another idea would be to make a jello or pudding from a package, with minimal ingredients and effort it can be a less stressful way to have them be included.

Be a food detective

Understanding why your child won’t eat certain foods will help you to determine what they might eat. For example if your child loves apples but hates applesauce, it might be the texture of applesauce you need to avoid.

When trying to figure out their likes and dislikes, consider:

  • Taste
  • Texture
  • Colour
  • Smell
  • Appearance

And go from there. Keep in mind that this list of likes/dislikes may change over time too.

Try new foods as a family

Ever walked past the produce section and thought, what the heck is that?

Consider bringing the item home and doing a family taste test.

Before you cut into the item, go around the table and predict what you think it will taste like. If your picky eater is unwilling to taste it, ask if they will smell it and/or lick it? Does the smell match up with their guess?

Remember to be patient and have fun! Changing the habits of a picky eater takes time & consistency.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Please note: This article first appeared in Heartheld Magazine’s September 2022 Issue. You can learn more about the magazine here!

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