5 Tips for Feeding a Picky Child

little girl smiling at camera

Picky children are tough to have around. Unless you’re a picky eater yourself, it’s hard to imagine why someone would need to pick out all the raisins before eating an oatmeal cookie. Or why a hamburger tastes best without any condiments. But picky children are everywhere, and the majority of families are blessed with a picky child for at least a portion of their time together. Handling a picky eater can be tricky, but it is possible.

1. Picky Eaters Won’t Starve

The first thing a parent should remember is that a picky eater won’t starve to death. However, depending on how firm your picky eater chooses to stand his ground, he might be tired, cranky and make everyone around him miserable. If you’re tired of making only one dish every night, stop. Make a new dish for him, but make it a point to always include something you know he usually eats. Make dinner, for example, and include apple slices that he normally enjoys – with the peel removed, of course.

Or make something new for breakfast and serve it with a big glass of milk he’ll be sure to drink. Seeing new foods will help the picky eater branch away from his favorites, but giving him something to eat at every meal will at least keep the peace.

2. Picky Eaters Tend To Be Habitual

Picky eating usually starts during the toddler years. But as your child grows and develops new tastes, he might not even realize that he likes new things unless he’s had a chance to try them. The picky eater will almost always eat his favorites to the exclusion of all others. And many parents accommodate this after a time because they tire of making food he doesn’t eat. But when a picky eater isn’t given other choices, he stays picky.

Occasionally, you can break the cycle of the picky eater by offering him something new. This works best in a situation outside of the norm and when your picky eater is presented with a powerful reason to change. For example, if he idolizes his older cousin whose in town, order your child the same meal as the cousin and see if your child is willing to set up and try it. If not, let him eat the fries or the rolls to keep him afloat until dinner time. If you keep trying new things, preferably things you’re making for the rest of the family, he will eventually branch out at least a bit to try something out of his norm.

3. Picky Eaters Need Patience

Most of all, picky eaters need your patience. While some children are picky as a means of seeking extra attention or testing a parent’s limits, others are legitimately not interested in checking on a chicken bone or eating anything resembling a casserole. Be patient with your picky eater and know that most picky eaters do grow out of this stage in time. In the meantime, go along reasonably with your child. If she wants orange juice and toast, give her the juice and some whole grain toast. See if she’ll accept a bit of melted cheese on the toast or if she’ll try some ham or eggs with the toast. If she says no, don’t push.

4. Don’t Make Food a Weapon

Too often parents of picky eaters use food as a weapon and turn the table into a battleground. Children who don’t want to eat broccoli are punished or forced to eat it. Imagine if you were presented with a food you found repellent and you were forced to eat it or punished because of it. You’d likely not be particularly interested in eating it again in the future. When you make the dinner table a field of war, you’ll more likely alienate your child and cause him anger and frustration than helping him eat a healthy, more varied diet.

5. Diets Don’t Need Much Variety

If your picky eater has only a handful of foods she’ll eat on a daily basis, take a tally of those food items to see what sort of nutrition she is getting. It might surprise you to see ways you can slip in a bit of extra nutrition. The orange juice counts as a serving of fruit for the day. The sandwich on whole bread likely contains protein in addition to carbohydrates. Different kinds of fruits and vegetables have different nutrients present, and with any luck, even your pickiest eater will find something in every food group he can eat at most, if not every, meal until he grows out of the phase.

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