How to Get Your Picky Child To Eat

How to Get Your Picky Child To Eat  thumbnail
Serve your picky child small portions to make mealtime more pleasant.

You might think your child is being picky just to be difficult, but there are many reasons a child may refuse to eat. Your child's sense of taste is different than yours and is more sensitive to sweet and sour flavors, so something you find delicious may be overpowering or nauseating to your child. If your child is consistently reluctant to eat a certain food, he may have an allergy or sensitivity to the food. Allow your picky child to continue to eat the things he likes while encouraging him to try new foods in a non-confrontational manner.

Things You'll Need

  • Patience
  • Creativity
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    • 1

      Serve smaller portions. You may be serving your child more food than he can actually eat. Children are much smaller than adults and require smaller portions at every meal. Large portions can be intimidating for children, especially if the food is unfamiliar. Serve small portions on a small plate so dinner isn't a monumental meal that is physically difficult for your child to finish.

    • 2

      Serve your picky child dinner early. Your child is hungry when she gets home from school in the afternoon, so this may be the best time to serve her the evening meal. When the rest of the family has dinner, serve your picky eater a light snack. This is especially true if your child does not like eating her lunch at school. Try to avoid giving her after-school snacks. Snacks will make your child less hungry at dinnertime and make her seem to be picky.

    • 3

      Make your picky eater a half-and-half. Offer him a small portion of the meal you are eating and a small portion of something he likes to eat. It is absolutely fine to serve your picky eater some chicken alongside half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Tell your picky eater he can have his preferred food after he eats -- or at least tries -- what you are eating.

    • 4

      Introduce new foods a little at a time. A picky eater may not want to try something new. If you are introducing a new food, give your child one or two pieces of the new food and tell your child she must at least try it. Once she has tried the food, allow her to continue with the rest of her meal.

    • 5

      Allow a once a week pass. Give your child the option to replace one meal he doesn't want per week with one of his preferred foods -- even if it's a bowl of cereal. Make him a special pass he can use and then let him decide which meal he will use it for. This will make him feel more involved in the decision-making process and will give you a break from his complaints night after night. You must be vigilant and only allow your child to replace one meal a week.

    • 6

      Break the rules. Let your picky child have breakfast for dinner -- fruit, yogurt, cereal and eggs are healthy options for your picky child. If she won't eat meat or vegetables, turn her favorite fruits into a tasty, healthy smoothie as a meal replacement -- you can add fiber, protein powder, flax seed oil and even vegetables to a smoothie to supply nutritional elements she might be lacking in her limited diet. Allow treats in small portions when your child tries a new food or comes close to finishing her meal instead of reserving dessert for finished meals only.

Tips & Warnings

  • Eat a variety of foods yourself. If your child sees you enjoying a wide variety of food, he will be more likely to try new things himself.

  • If your child will only eat food a certain way -- for example, dipped in ketchup -- allow it. Your child will likely outgrow many picky eating habits as her sense of taste matures.

  • Treats do not have to be junk food. Fruit, popcorn and cereal bars are all healthy options for a post-dinner treat for your picky eater.

  • Keep trying. Re-introduce small portions of foods your child has previously refused every few months. As his sense of taste changes, he may come to enjoy foods he previously disliked.

  • Pay attention to your child's picky eating. Your child may not be able to communicate a connection between a certain food and the fact that she feels unwell after eating it, and may simply refuse to eat foods that make her feel sick. If your child repeatedly turns down the same food item she may have a sensitivity or allergy to that food. Consult your doctor as allergy tests and a physical checkup may help pinpoint the problem.

  • Do not make your child sit at the table until his plate is clean or force him to eat something he doesn't like after he has tried it. This creates a negative association with food and will worsen your child's problems with food, making him appear to be even more picky down the road.

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  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

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