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Picky or Fussy Eating Habits in Children

  • Publish Date : 2015/08/12 - (Rev. 2019/01/10)
  • Author : Thomas C. Weiss
  • Contact : Disabled World

Synopsis: Information and tips on getting children who are fussy or picky eaters to eat sufficient nutrition and food variety in their diets.

Main Document

If children's nutrition is a rough subject in your home you are not alone. A number of parents worry about what their children eat, or do not eat. Most children; however, receive plenty of nutrition and variety in their diets over the period of a week. Until your child's food preferences mature, you might consider these tips for the prevention of mealtime issues.


It is important to respect your child's level of appetite. If your child is not hungry, it is important not to force a snack or meal on them.

Do not bribe or force your child to consume certain foods or clean their plate. Doing so may ignite or reinforce a power struggle over food. Your child may come to associate mealtime with frustration and anxiety, or become less sensitive to their own hunger and fullness.

Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and provide them with the opportunity to independently as for more.

What follows are more suggestions regarding children and picky eating.

  • Present a Good Example:

    If you eat a variety of foods that are healthy, your child is more likely to follow.

  • Be Creative with Foods:

    Add chopped green peppers or broccoli to spaghetti sauce, mix grated carrots and zucchini into casseroles and soups. Top cereal with fruit slices.

  • Cut Down on Distractions:

    Turn off electronic gadgets or the television during mealtimes. Doing so will help your child to concentrate on eating. Bear in mind that television ads may also encourage your child to want sugary or less nutritious foods.

  • Make Foods Fun to Eat:

    Serve broccoli or other vegetables with your child's favorite sauce or dip. Cut foods into different shapes using cookie cutters. Offer your child breakfast foods at dinner time. Serve a variety of foods that are brightly colored.

  • Pursue a Routine:

    Serve snacks and meals at around the same time each day. You can provide 100% juice with the food or milk, but offer water between the child's snacks and meals. Permitting your child to fill up on milk, juice or snacks all day may decrease their appetite for meals.

  • Remain Patient with New Types of Foods:

    Young children often smell and touch foods that are new to them. They may even put tiny bits of the food into their mouths and then take them back out. Your child may need repeated exposure to a new food before they take a first bite of it.

  • Ask For Your Child's Help:

    While you are at a grocery store ask your child to help you pick out vegetables, fruits and other foods that are healthy. Do not purchase anything you do not want your child to eat. While at home, encourage your child to help you rinse vegetables, set the table, or stir batter.

It is important that parents do not become a short-order cook. Preparing a separate meal for your child after they reject the original meal may promote picky eating. Encourage your child to remain at the table for the designated mealtime, even if they do not eat. Keep serving your child healthy foods until they become both familiar and preferred by your child.

If you are concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's development and growth, contact your child's doctor. The doctor can plot your child's growth on a growth chart. As a parent, consider recording the amounts and types of foods your child eats for three days. The bigger picture might help you to ease your worries. A food log may also help your child's doctor to determine any issues that might exist.

Remember that your child's eating habits most likely will not change quickly. Small steps each day can help to promote a lifetime practice of healthy eating.

Child Eating Tips

  • Make Mealtimes Pleasant:

    Your mealtime environment should always be considered when you feed your child. Conversation should be pleasant, distractions should be limited and the eating space should be clean and bright. Mealtime is not the time for arguing or watching television.

  • Share Responsibility with Your Child:

    As a parent, you have responsibilities where feeding your child is concerned. It is important to know that your child also has responsibilities. You control what, where and when you provide food. Your child decides whether or not to eat the food, as well as how much they consume.

  • Offer Your Child a Variety of Age-Appropriate Foods:

    Your child should select from different foods at meals such as fruit, vegetables, starch and protein. Your menu should not be limited to your child's favorite foods. Children may be offered a food up to fifteen times before they will actually try it. If everything else fails, your child will probably eat pasta or bread.

  • Limit Drinks that are High in Calories:

    Your child might not eat the foods you give them if they are drinking too many calories from soda, milk, or juice. If your child drinks too much, they may become full and eat poorly during mealtimes. Limit your child to four ounces of juice and 24 ounces of milk each day. Soda is not recommended for children because it lacks nutritional benefit.

  • Respect Your Child's Eating Quirks:

    Everyone has their own quirks about eating. Children might eat a sandwich that is cut into triangles with the crust removed, yet refuse to eat the exact same sandwich cut into squares with the crust on. A child might eat small pieces of broccoli, but avoid eating the stems. Foods that your child eats today might not be ones they eat the next day. It is important to understand that your child may react differently to the same foods on different days. It is not necessary to offer your child a substitute food.

Dessert? Not Always

Dessert is something that certainly does not need to be offered to your child with each meal, or even each day.

When dessert is available, you should consider the following ideas. If a child is forced to consume an entire meal prior to dessert, they might be full, yet will likely eat the dessert anyway. If your child refuses to eat, keeping dessert from them is not an answer. Your child will learn to value dessert above more nutritious foods, something that can change their eating patterns for the remainder of their life. If your child rushes through the meal to get to dessert, try offering them dessert with the meal itself.

When children are picky eaters, it may be a response to parents who are pushy or controlling, or to bribery.

The fight over food can lead to defiance and resistance from your child. In the end, it is your child's decision as to what they want to eat and whether or not they will eat the foods you have provided. At times, a child might eat very little or nothing at all, although they will make up the nutrition later in the day, or even later in the week.

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