Getting picky eaters to eat healthy foods

Getting picky eaters to eat healthy foodsGetting picky eaters to eat healthy foods Getting picky eaters to eat healthy foodsGetting picky eaters to eat healthy foods

Getting picker eaters to eat healthy foods... If I had a cent for every time a parent asked me for advice on this, I'd be extremely wealthy!

Picky eating is usually described as an unwillingness to try new foods or eat familiar foods, as well as having strong food preferences.

Eating selected foods and not wanting foods to touch each other on a plate are normal behaviours, and they usually go away by the age of five.

In some extreme cases, picky eating can result in a very low variety of foods in the diet and can lead to concerns of nutritional deficiencies, including possible adverse health effects.


Ensuring your picky eater has a healthy and balanced diet can be a challenge, but there are strategies that parents can use.

Getting picky eaters to eat healthy foods

  1. Create a positive mealtime environment: Avoid distractions such as phones, tablets and television, in order to create a calm and relaxed ambience. Practicing mindful eating techniques where you pay attention to food smells, tastes, and textures also helps to create a healthy relationship with food. It is important for mealtime to be enjoyable and stress-free, which promotes healthy eating habits in children.
  2. Respect their food preferences: Understand that children may have genuine likes and dislikes when it comes to foods, similar to adults. Some children are sensitive to certain tastes or textures. Respect their food preferences and be patient as you gradually introduce new foods to ensure that feeding time is a positive experience for your child.
  3. Introduce foods in small portions: Offer one new food at mealtime in small portions and avoid force-feeding your child, as it can create negative associations with food. Be patient with the process and wait a few days before offering the food again, if the food was rejected. Remember, it can take multiple exposures to a new food before a child finally accepts it.
  4. Sneak in healthy foods: Increase the intake of nutrients or healthy foods that are disliked into other foods creatively. Incorporate disliked foods into preferred, familiar dishes. For example, blend veggies into fruit smoothies, pasta sauces, soups, peas/beans, minced meat and oven-baked pies. This can help increase food and nutrient intake in children.
  5. Make meals visually appealing: We all eat with our eyes first and children are attracted to bright colours. So present the food in an appealing style. Use colorful plates, arranging foods in fun shapes, or create food art. Engaging the visual senses of children at mealtimes can make the food more enticing.
  6. Involve children in meal planning and preparation: Let your child participate in meal planning by getting their input on menu items each week. Take them grocery shopping and get them involved in selecting the healthy ingredients. Children can also help in food preparation by giving them age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen, such as washing fruits and vegetables. This can increase interest and willingness of picky eaters to try new foods.
  7. Offer new food as options: Provide two or three options at mealtime and encourage your child to explore and choose the new food on their own. This gives them a sense of control and the opportunity to practice making healthy food choices.
  8. Use alternative food options: Avoid forcing your child to accept disliked foods. If your child consistently rejects a certain food such as whole milk, consider offering an alternative like yogurt. You can gradually reintroduce the rejected food in different forms, such as in a fruit smoothie in the instance the disliked food is milk.
  9. Model healthy behaviour: Be a positive role model for your child and demonstrate healthy eating habits by enjoying a variety of nutritious foods yourself. Children learn by observation as well, so show enthusiasm for healthy options and involve your child in your own food experiences.
  10. Seek professional help: If your child's picky eating habits allow for a very limited selection of foods, this can impact their growth and development. Consider seeking guidance from a Developmental Pediatrician or Registered Dietitian to provide a personalized assessment and intervention.

Patience is key

Helping your child overcome picky eating requires patience.

It can be a stressful experience for parents, but it is important to remember to have a positive approach.

Keep offering healthy options, respect your child’s preferences, avoid force feeding, involve your child in the process, and create a positive eating environment to gradually expand their food choices, and encourage the intake of a balanced diet.

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