Healthy Eating For Children & Teens

How can I encourage a picky eater to try new foods?

A Answers (3)

  • AMarcus K. Blackburn, MD, Pediatrics, answered on behalf of Intermountain Healthcare
    Picky eaters are really common in the toddler age group. So what I tell parents is that they decide what their kids eat, when they eat it, and what, when, and where; and then the kids get to decide how much. So you put it on the table and you say, "You need to try everything." That's important, too, but then if they don't eat, they get hungry. And I promise that kids, when they get hungry enough, will eat, and we don't need to feel like we are force-feeding anyone. And that way it doesn't become a power struggle, but eventually the kids try the things that you want them to try.
  • AMary Mullen, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered on behalf of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
    What to say to encourage picky eaters:
    • Choose phrases that help point out the sensory qualities of food, like “This kiwi fruit is sweet like a strawberry” or “These radishes are very crunchy!” They encourage your child to try new foods.
    • Avoid phrases that teach your child to eat for approval and love, like “Eat that for me” or “If you do not eat one more bite, I will be mad.” This can lead your child to have unhealthy behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs about food and about themselves.
    • Choose phrases that help your child recognize when he or she is full, like “Is your stomach telling you that you’re full?” “Is your stomach still making its hungry growling noise?” “Has your tummy had enough?” These statements can help prevent overeating.
    • Avoid phrases that encourage kids to ignore signs of fullness, like “You’re such a big girl; you finished all your peas,” “Look at your sister. She ate all of her bananas,” or “You have to take one more bite before you leave the table.”
    • Choose phrases that make your child feel like he or she is making the choices, like “Do you like that?” “Which one is your favorite?” or “Everyone likes different foods, don’t they?” These statements shift the focus toward the taste of food rather than who was right.
    • Avoid phrases that imply a child was wrong to refuse a food, like “See, that didn’t taste so bad, did it?” These statements can lead to unhealthy attitudes about food or self.
    • Choose phrases that comfort or reward your child with attention and kind words, like “I am sorry you are sad. Come here and let me give you a big hug.” Show love by spending time and having fun together.
    • Avoid phrases that make some foods seem like a comfort, like “Stop crying and I will give you a cookie.” Getting a food treat when upset teaches your child to eat to feel better. This can cause overeating.
    • Avoid phrases that make foods seem like a reward or like they are better than other foods, such as “No dessert until you eat your vegetables.” A better way to encourage your child to keep trying vegetables might be, “We can try these vegetables again another time. Next time would you like to them raw instead of cooked?”
  • ATanya Remer Altmann, MD, Pediatrics, answered

    All parents have a story about when their child was a “picky eater”. Usually around the age of one a child’s appetite will naturally decrease as their growth rate slows. Toddler and young children can use meal time to force food preference.

    Try these tips to encourage your picky eater to try new foods.

    • Involve your child in prepping the food
    • Be patient
    • Do not force your child to eat
    • Dine together
    • Role model healthy eating
    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
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