Health and Wellness, Parenting

What to do about picky eaters

Blog by FCO Workshop Coordinator, Hailey Parliament.

On February 22, Aviva Allen, one of Toronto’s leading Kids’ Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters, visited U of T St. George campus to share w techniques for dealing picky eaters. With more than 15 participants, Aviva led an interesting, insightful and helpful workshop.

"Picky Eater" CC image courtesy of Clay Bitner on Flikr

“Picky Eater” CC image courtesy of Clay Bitner on Flikr

So, the question we are all wondering, what are we supposed to do with picky eaters? For Aviva, the answer can be broken into 5 steps.

  1. Determine why. Why does your child not want to eat, or why do they eat the way that they do? Is your child full from snacks?  Are they tired?  Does mealtime happen as part of a recognized routine? Are they comfortable?
  1. Determine whether your child is a Picky Eater or a Problem Eater. What’s the difference? A picky eater has about 30 foods they are ok with, while a problem eater is okay with less than 20. Picky eaters are able to tolerate new food on their plates and eat at least one food from all texture and nutritional groups. For problem eaters, new foods on their plate cause a meltdown and entire categories of nutritional groups are not tolerated.
  1. Address health issues that may be adding to the problem. Like you and me, children are not going to eat much food if they are not feeling well. Things to consider include constipation, allergies, colds/infections, reflux and low iron.
  1. Determine the best strategy for you and your family. Remove the pressure from your child to eat, allow them to watch you eat at the table. Establish a dinner routine. Whatever works best for you, make sure it happens consistently so children know what to expect of meal time, and what you expect of them.
  1. Ensure a balanced diet (as effectively as you can). In order to do this, focus on nutrient dense foods like avocado, almond butter, hummus and eggs.

Remember! Adult tastebuds develop around the age of eight. Before then, children have many more tastebuds and flavours therefore affect them differently.

Most importantly, Aviva left parents with the advice to understand their roles. Parents are to decide WHAT and WHEN your child eats, but it is up to the child to determine IF and HOW MUCH they will eat. It is when these roles get confused that trouble starts. So let your child play with their food and get comfortable with it. When they are hungry and feel supported, they will eat!

Aviva Allen is one of Toronto’s leading Kids’ Nutritionists specializing in helping parents deal with their picky eaters. Aviva helps children and their families establish healthy eating habits through her nutritional counselling practice located in Midtown Toronto. Aviva is also the founder of Healthy Moms Toronto, helping connect like-minded moms throughout the GTA.


Emma Helfand-Green

Emma is in her second year of the Master of Public Policy program. She recently completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, studying psychology and political science. When she is not blogging for the Family Care Office, you might find Emma volunteering at the Hart House theatre, working hard (or hardly working) at the Robarts Library, or spending quality time with her cat, Goose.

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