10 Tips for Handling Picky Eaters

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Your daughter won't eat her carrots because they touched her mashed potatoes, and she won't eat her entire meal if a single green pea appears on her plate. Your son will only eat peanut butter sandwiches. (A few days ago, he would only eat bananas.) Your twins are interested in doing anything at the dinner table except for eating.

Don't worry! Picky eating is typical behavior for many children, especially during the preschool years. Children go through stages, and what may seem like rebellion to you is a child's growing independence in making his or her own first decisions.

Nevertheless, a child growing in independence is also growing physically and needs good nutrition. Feeding picky eaters is a challenge and requires patience. Here are 10 tips to handle your picky eater:

1. Treat food jags casually. Respect their rules—such as the "no-touching" rule—if their rules are important to them.

2. Consider what your child eats over several days, rather than what he or she eats at a single meal. Most kids eat a better variety of food than parents think.

3. Trust your child's appetite. Forcing your child to eat everything on his or her plate encourages overeating.

4. Set reasonable time limits for the start and end of the meal, and then remove the plate quietly.

5. Stay positive. Avoid criticizing your child's eating habits, and avoid calling him or her a "picky eater."

6. Plan on offering at least one food everyone in your family will like. Don't expect everyone to eat and enjoy the same thing.

7. Substitute a similar food for one your child doesn't like. For instance, serve squash instead of sweet potatoes.

8. Provide two or three choices instead of a huge array of food, and let your child decide what he or she wants to eat.

9. Focus on your child's positive eating behavior rather than on the food.

10. Have your child help you in the kitchen. Give him or her small jobs and praise the efforts. Children are less likely to reject foods they helped make.

Information courtesy of choosemyplate.gov.


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