Avoid the Battle – How to Deal with a Picky Eater


    ideas for feeding picky eatersI’ve decided to call a truce. I’ve decided it’s unfair to say my toddler is a picky eater. So what that he doesn’t like every meal I put in front of him? I like certain foods and dishes more than others, too. We should help our children discover nutritious foods they enjoy, not judge their reaction. They have had limited exposure to the wide range of flavors, textures, and cuisines available. How can I make eating a fun adventure, not a battle ground?

    No name calling

    Labeling my son a “picky eater” underestimates him and limits both of us. I was discouraged by his inconsistent refusal of certain vegetables, so I fell into the trap of preparing different meals. Imagine my shock when I recently sat down to eat a salad, and he came to me and asked if he could have some! Another time my jaw dropped was when I was at the market to buy him bananas. He reached for a broccoli head and asked if we could get it! If I keep preparing him meals that I think he will deem acceptable, we both miss out.

    Have a little empathy

    It would be difficult to seemingly not have a say in what you eat. Can you imagine if at a restaurant you were served a dish you did not order and do not like, and then you were expected to eat it without complaint? And you were made to return to this restaurant again and again?

    Be a sleuth

    You might protest that I must have an easy eater. My toddler definitely has his share of culinary quirks. He picks out and puts aside the chopped up veggies I try to hide in his spaghetti. He pokes the crab out of California sushi rolls and gives me the rice. Today at dinner he told me he likes chicken and broccoli in the morning but not at night. (What?!) He never wants the last few bites of his banana. It would be so easy to write off this behavior and call him picky. But with context, I can dig further and try to understand him. It seems that he likes chicken and vegetables in his morning scrambled eggs, but not in his noodle soup dinners. Truth be told, if I am digging into a steamy bowl of pho or ramen, the noodles are my favorite part, too. He’s just vocalizing that preference in his own way. Similarly, I can make sense of most of his likes and dislikes if I stop and think about it.

    Connect the dots

    Is there a common thread in your child’s preferences? Does s/he prefer certain textures, colors, or shapes? Is s/he more of a grazer? Does s/he like food groups separated? Think about how you can play along with, not be restricted by, these preferences while offering nutritious options and introducing new foods. Most importantly, consider how to be creative with your child’s preferences while still cooking the way that comes naturally to you.

    Have fun

    How can you get your child involved in meal planning and preparation as play? Go to a community garden and dig in the dirt. Go to the farmer’s market and sample produce. Compare how carrots taste when raw vs. roasted. Get a child-sized apron and find age appropriate tasks in the kitchen, like sprinkling in the seasoning or holding the measuring spoon while you pour. Making food fun and interactive makes food more approachable. My son devours cucumbers when he helps sprinkle salt and drizzle olive oil on his “special” salad. The first time he made it, he was so proud, and I was, too.

    Moms, let’s put away the dining boxing gloves! How do you inspire healthful eating in your child?


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here