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Nutrition Tips for Picky Eaters

Picky eaters are common.  Your child may not like the texture, the smell, or even the look of the food. What your child likes to eat can change from one day to the next. Having a child refuse to eat can be frustrating, but there are things you can do to help your picky eater eat a balanced diet.

Encourage new foods

  • Pair a new food with one you know your child enjoys.
  • Try cooking or serving the new food in different ways. 
  • Offer new foods. If they do not like it, let your child eat another food being served.
  • Don’t give up. Most children say “no” to a new food the first time. 
  • Encourage curiosity about new foods. Tell stories about your favorite food.
  • Let your child explore new foods by smell, touch, texture, and taste. Ask your child to describe the food rather than just asking if they liked it.

Involve your child

  • Ask for help in the kitchen. For example, your child can wash the vegetables, stir, or add ingredients. Helping prepare the meal adds to the desire to try the meal.
  • Allow for a choice between 2 different healthy options.
  • Allow your child to pick a new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the grocery store.
  • Look at recipes and plan meals together. If there is something that your child doesn’t like, discuss what you could substitute.

Make food healthy and fun

  • Use cookie cutters to make shapes or create funny faces with the food.
  • Serve food using fun or decorated plates, napkins, and cups.
  • Make the meal or snack colorful. Visit a grocery store or farmer’s market and admire the different colors of fruits and vegetables.
  • Be patient if your child refuses to eat a particular food or meal. Forcing your child to eat can create stress. It may also make them less aware of feelings of hunger or fullness.

Create healthy eating habits

  • Be a good role model. Set an example by eating healthy foods.
  • Limit electronics, toys, and other distractions during mealtimes.
  • Don’t use food as a reward or a punishment.
  • Avoid using bribes to get your child to eat.  
  • Stick to the routine. Serve meals and snacks at the same time each day.
  • Offer some choice at mealtime, but don’t prepare a completely different meal just for your child. 

Key Points

  • It is common for children to refuse food. 
  • Encourage your child to try new foods, but it might take some time and creativity. 
  • Involve your child in food choices, shopping, and preparing meals. 
  • Make meals fun for your child.
  • Be a good role model and create a healthy eating routine.

Reviewed: August 2022