Do YOU Have a Picky Eater?

Posted on: May 5, 2017  |  Posted in: Community Blog

“I won’t eat it. You can’t make me! Sound familiar? Having a picky eater in the family can really be frustrating, and impact on the quality of the time a family spends together at the dinner table. To that end, I would like to share some tips I recently learned during a training with a Behavioral Specialist from Rady Children’s Hospital.*

First and foremost, try not to let food turn into a power struggle between you and your picky eater.

Second, try to keep a sense of humor, and finally, remember you don’t have to be a short order cook!  Indeed, it is hard when a child refuses to eat food you have prepared for them, especially with food prices on the rise.  Let’s take a look at parent’s roles and children’s roles when it comes to a sensitive subject like food.

  1. As a parent, your job is to offer a variety of healthy foods to your child. Include one or two foods you know your child does like (milk, cheese, etc) in the meal.  Your child’s job is to decide what he or she will eat, and how much.
  2. We know now that the old rule, “clean your plate”, can make it hard for a child to recognize their body’s physical cues that they are full, possibly leading to eating problems as they grow. Trust your child to know when he or she is done eating.
  3. Remember, your child’s stomach is about the size of their fist. Offer smaller portions accordingly.
  4. Some children don’t like certain textures of foods. For example, many toddlers don’t like a mixture of textures, like stir fry or a sandwich. Foods like corn and peas burst in the mouth, bananas are soft, meat is chewy, etc.  Other children prefer foods with lots of texture and don’t like smooth textures.
  5. It can take 40 to 200 times for a child to eat something they initially reject, or they might try it the next time you serve it.  Just keep offering it when it’s part of the meal plan.

Eating together as a family is an important time of the day: A time to slow down and communicate with each other in a conflict-free atmosphere. Even your picky eater benefits from this experience. Studies have shown that children who share a least one meal a day with their family may have better outcomes in school and other areas of their lives. Pediatricians tell us that given a variety of healthy foods to choose from, most children will get what they need. Enjoy being together at meal time. Bon appétit!

* Please consult your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns about your child, such as low weight, gagging, and vomiting.


Post By: Donna Hilt. Donna is a Family Support Worker for SAY San Diego‘s First Five First Steps program. The program is designed to strengthen child and family relationships by providing support, education, and guidance through home visits to expectant parents and parents of newborns.