Picky Eaters: Preventing Food Wars

Picky Eaters: Preventing Food Wars

We've all seen kids who decide that the only thing worth eating is a chicken nugget. Or a bowl of mac and cheese. And that's it. Oh, the picky eater -- the child who asserts that he likes only a few things and refuses to let his tongue touch anything else. The real issue, of course, is not one of taste but one of control. To avoid future food wars, try these strategies to avoid raising a picky eater:

  • Provide lots of choices, and don't be afraid to parallel cook. If Junior never eats fish, then have a different protein available, and encourage eating fish when there is positive peer pressure to try it. For instance, when Junior's best buddy, whose parent has told you he eats fish like a champ, is coming over, plan to have fish for that meal. Observation of peers and older siblings or cousins can be a powerful motivator.
  • Food repetition is okay, as long as there's balance overall or a multivitamin makes up the difference. Children may go for days, weeks, or months wanting only peanut butter and jelly or whatever the latest taste preference is. Although it may drive you nuts, look on the bright side: You've got an easy meal that goes down without a fuss.
  • Keep exposing him to healthful foods; some may stick. Try food games like, "How many raisins can stick to a celery stalk filled with cream cheese?"
  • When you feel a battle coming on, take a step back. Will your son be scarred for life if he doesn't eat two more carrots?
  • Add a daily multivitamin. This provides an insurance policy against an imperfect diet. But read the label: Some brands recommend a half vitamin for children under 2 and a whole tablet for those 2 and older, while other brands recommend one vitamin for under age 2 and two tablets for those over 2.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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