How to Handle Picky Eaters

How to Handle Picky Eaters

Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenging task for parents, but with patience and the right strategies, you can encourage your child to try new foods and develop healthier eating habits. Here’s a guide to help you handle picky eaters effectively.

1. Stay Calm and Patient

Avoid Power Struggles

  • Stay Positive: Keep mealtimes positive and avoid turning them into a battleground.
  • Be Patient: Understand that developing new eating habits takes time.

Lead by Example

  • Model Behavior: Eat a variety of foods yourself to set a good example.
  • Family Meals: Encourage family meals where everyone eats the same food.

2. Create a Positive Eating Environment

Make Mealtimes Enjoyable

  • Relaxed Atmosphere: Create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere during meals.
  • No Pressure: Avoid pressuring your child to eat or to finish everything on their plate.

Routine and Consistency

  • Regular Meals: Serve meals and snacks at the same times every day.
  • Predictable Schedule: A consistent eating schedule helps children know what to expect.

3. Involve Kids in Food Preparation

Grocery Shopping

  • Choices: Let your child help choose fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods at the grocery store.
  • Exploration: Encourage them to explore new foods by touching, smelling, and even tasting them.

Cooking Together

  • Participation: Involve your child in cooking and meal preparation.
  • Ownership: Allowing them to help makes them more likely to try the food they helped prepare.

4. Offer a Variety of Foods

Introduce New Foods Gradually

  • Small Portions: Offer small portions of new foods alongside familiar favorites.
  • Repeated Exposure: Repeated exposure to new foods can increase acceptance over time.

Balance and Nutrition

  • Balanced Diet: Ensure meals include a variety of foods from all food groups.
  • Nutrient-Rich Foods: Focus on nutrient-rich foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals.

5. Make Food Fun and Appealing

Creative Presentation

  • Shapes and Colors: Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes and present colorful foods.
  • Food Art: Arrange food in fun patterns or designs on the plate.

Dips and Sauces

  • Dipping Fun: Offer healthy dips like hummus, yogurt, or salsa to make vegetables more appealing.
  • Flavor Variety: Experiment with different herbs and spices to enhance flavors.

6. Encourage Autonomy and Choice

Empower Your Child

  • Choices: Offer choices between two healthy options to give your child a sense of control.
  • Self-Serve: Allow older children to serve themselves, which can increase their interest in the food.

Respect Preferences

  • Listen: Pay attention to your child’s likes and dislikes, but gently encourage trying new things.
  • Avoid Forcing: Avoid forcing your child to eat something they genuinely dislike.

7. Establish Mealtime Rules

Clear Guidelines

  • Consistent Rules: Set clear and consistent rules for mealtimes, such as no toys at the table and trying at least one bite of new foods.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement and praise for trying new foods and good behavior at the table.

Family Involvement

  • Family Participation: Involve the entire family in following mealtime rules and encouraging healthy eating habits.

8. Address Underlying Issues

Sensory Sensitivities

  • Texture Preferences: Some children have sensory sensitivities to certain textures or tastes.
  • Gradual Exposure: Gradually introduce different textures and flavors to help your child become more comfortable.

Appetite and Hunger

  • Healthy Snacks: Offer healthy snacks between meals to prevent extreme hunger or lack of appetite at mealtimes.
  • Appropriate Portions: Serve appropriate portion sizes to match your child’s appetite.

9. Stay Persistent and Consistent

Keep Trying

  • Persistence: Keep offering new foods even if they are initially rejected.
  • Consistency: Consistently encourage healthy eating habits and maintain a positive attitude.

Celebrate Small Wins

  • Acknowledge Progress: Celebrate small victories, such as trying a new food or eating a balanced meal.
  • Positive Feedback: Provide positive feedback and encouragement to build confidence.

10. Seek Professional Advice

Pediatrician or Nutritionist

  • Professional Guidance: Consult with a pediatrician or nutritionist if you have concerns about your child’s eating habits or nutrition.
  • Personalized Advice: Get personalized advice and strategies tailored to your child’s specific needs.

Support Groups

  • Parent Support: Join parent support groups or forums to share experiences and get advice from other parents dealing with picky eaters.


Handling picky eaters requires patience, creativity, and a positive approach. By creating a positive eating environment, involving your child in food preparation, offering a variety of foods, and staying consistent with mealtime rules, you can help your child develop healthier eating habits. Remember to celebrate small wins, respect your child’s preferences, and seek professional advice if needed. With time and persistence, you can make mealtimes more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone.

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