How to Deal With a Child Who is a Picky Eater

Writer: Hannah Louise Cabrejas, Workshop Coordinator

Having a child who is a picky eater is often a common problem among parents. How can my child enjoy their food while also gaining enough nutrients each meal? Below are 5 different ways you can help your child instill better eating habits.

Let kids play with their food

This may sound contradictory but hear me out. Allow your child to touch, move, and pick at their food. As younger kids are learning more about the world, it is natural to become curious about what is around them. Due to their new environments, one of the biggest struggles is learning to navigate control in their surroundings and manage their frustrations.

So, sometimes it may not even be the food itself that they’re refusing, but their inability to control what’s around them. By letting your kid poke at their food, they can become comfortable on their own terms, and maybe even enjoy the food you’ve given them.

When young, expose them to a variety of foods

Having your child eat the same meals can encourage them to stick with those meals and refuse to branch out in the future. By slowly introducing different meals as they grow, their palate will become accustomed to a variety of foods and options.

Don’t make separate meals

When preparing dinner for the family, make the same meal for everyone. Don’t make extra time to prepare a separate meal for your picky eater. By preparing a separate meal for your child, you are signalling to them that substitutes are available and will be accommodated easily, further encouraging this behaviour.

However, if necessary, provide them a simple snack, such as fruit or crackers, that is available in the kitchen, or as far away from the table as possible. This gives them the option of control over their meals, but often your child won’t take the option because it is much easier for them to sit and eat the meal prepared than to leave the table for a simple snack.

Include your child in the food preparation process

Bring your kids to the grocery store with you to pick out the ingredients. Or involve them in the cooking process by allowing them to wash the vegetables or watch you prepare the meal. Giving your children a glimpse into the meal preparation process provides them agency in the meals, as well as getting them excited about eating their finished product.

It may be something beyond picky eating

Sometimes when kids refuse to eat and repeatedly throw tantrums at the dinner table, it may be something beyond the food itself. These reactions may be a part of a larger behavioural issue that may need to be addressed. After a sustained period, it may be best to consult with a professional to see if there is an underlying behavioural issue that may need to be addressed.

February 17, 2022