Mommy Tips: How To Deal With Picky Eaters


Are you sick of meal time battles with your kid? It's discouraging to thoughtfully prepare a nutritious meal for your child and have it go to waste after an hour-long standoff. The last thing any mother wants to do is prepare several meals and snacks because one rogue child won't eat what's served. It's frustrating and makes it difficult to make sure that your child eats a well balanced diet.

Here are some sanity saving tips for dealing with a picky eater.

Mommy Tips: How To Deal With Picky Eaters


My daughter will eat anything except for macaroni and cheese. Go figure. My son loves macaroni and cheese and your typical toddler staples like apples, chicken fingers, and strawberries. Getting him to try new things is a challenge. It's hard to know what he will like and what he won't. I'm fortunate that my daughter will devour my sons leftovers so we don't waste much.

Make experimentation a family activity. If you take your child food shopping with you - let him or her pick the adventure food of the week. Involve your child in the process of cooking or serving the meal. Your child will be more likely to try the new food. He or she may not like it, but it's a great way to set up a new routine. Eventually something will stick and you'll be ready to move on to the next culinary adventure.

Be patient

I know it's easier said than done but relax. Your child isn't going to starve. The phase won't last forever. Don't stress your child out. Think about it: if someone was offering you a new and strange looking food angrily and forcefully how likely would you be to take a bite?

Not very.

Be kind, patient, and considerate. You'll reap the rewards eventually. Forcing your child to eat when he isn't interested or doesn't like what you prepared isn't beneficial. It could have a negative impact on his or her future relationship with food and diminish the likelihood of your child being receptive to trying new foods. My mother ruined chickpeas for me.

Barter don't bribe

My goal isn't to trick my child into eating a food he isn't interested in. I aim to convince him to at least try a bite so I know whether he likes the food or not. If he does he will eat more on his own. If he doesn't I move on. The old wives tale about offering the same food a few times to see if it sticks has never held true for me.

If he doesn't like it, he doesn't like it. I don't force the issue. I hate white anchovies and I don't care what kind of succulent meat you wrap them around, I will never eat them. Why would my child be any different?

I barter with my child on occasion. I make it clear that I won't force him to eat a new food but if he wants a post dinner treat (usually fruit) he is going to have to try a few bites. I leave it up to him. He feels empowered to make his own choice and most times happily takes a few bites. Half the time he likes what I've offered and we've discovered a new food to add to our meal rotation.

Do you have a picky eater? How do you handle it?

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  • Deborah Gilboa, MD

    So, I agree with not forcing your child to eat, but I don’t agree that if a child says they don’t like a food once they will never like it. I never enjoyed tomatoes or cantaloupe as a child or teenager, but as time went on, and I continued to try them in different ways, I learned to enjoy them. I especially love tomatoes in caprese salad, or cantaloupe with prosciutto. If I had said “I’ve never liked them” then two of those delicious options would not be on my list! My middle son is a bit picky but the basis of his pickiness is that he really has trouble remembering what foods he’s tried & liked. So we starting writing down what foods he likes and doesn’t (it helps my husband & I remember his preferences, too) and then he eats things better, new and old foods. Anyway, we turned this simple idea into a book to help other kids keep track of their foods too. It’s called “My Food Notebook” and you can check it out at

  • kierah

    I think parents should not force a child to eat but please it should be noted.

    I was an extremely picky eater as a child. It got slightly better when I went to sleepaway camp, but I still maintained a long list of food rules through college. I would pride myself on eating one meal a day. It really messed with my metabolism and it’s a battle I still fight today. Today my parents wish that I had seen a nutritionist in my teens to better educate me about my diet.

    As a mom to a 9 month old, I make sure I feed him lots of different foods. I also use different spices to vary his palette. My mom is a great cook, but adventurous she is not. Hopefully this will continue and he won’t adopt my habits.