Is Your Child A Picky Eater? Here’s How To Get Them To Eat

picky eater kids tips

Struggling to get your children to eat certain types of food (or even eat at all)? You’re not alone. Many parents have kids and toddlers who are fussy with their food. And it’s an eating behaviour that, if not corrected early from childhood, could continue well into adulthood. If you’re curious about what causes children to be picky eaters, the different types there are, and also the best way to overcome this, keep reading. Ahead, we break down everything you need to know; from the meaning of a picky eater to the most encouraging methods to improve your kids’ appetites. 

What Is The Meaning Of A Picky Eater?

A picky eater or fussy eater is someone who refuses to consume a variety of foods. They may also prefer to eat only specific foods that they like. This is why they are usually not willing to try new dishes that may not look, smell, or taste familiar to them. Though more common among toddlers and preschoolers, even adults can be picky eaters

What Causes Children To Be Picky Eaters?

There are several factors that cause young children to develop this choosy behaviour with food, some of which include: 

  • Difficulties feeding or nursing them at a young age. 
  • Late introduction of solid food into their diet.
  • The overwhelming pressure to eat (especially from strict parents).
  • Eating the same types of meals all the time as a child.
  • If they had an unpleasant experience with a certain type of food.

Types Of Picky Eaters In Children

types of picky eater kids
Credit: Alex Green via Pexels

The One Who Only Likes Plain Food 

For this type of fussy eater, they prefer eating bland, neutral-tasting foods like plain bread with butter, rice, crackers, and cereal. They rarely step outside their comfort zone and would reject strong flavours that are too bitter or sour. 

The One Who Only Drinks, Not Eat 

Some children despise eating altogether, and would only drink (be it milk, water, or juice). Why? Because drinking is not as time-consuming, and they’ll have more time to play with their favourite toys or watch their favourite shows on TV or a tablet

The One Whose Appetite Changes 24/7

One day they’re fine eating that new dish you prepared, other days they won’t even manage a bite. Sounds familiar? That’s because, after their first year, kids’ growth rate slows down, which causes their appetites to change too. 

The One Who Dislikes Texture 

If you struggle to get it just right with the texture of their meals, your fussy eater falls under this category. Chances are, they’re probably rejecting certain food textures because they’re not fully comfortable chewing them. 

The One Who Refuses To Try New Food

This type of choosy eater is not willing to experiment with new flavours. Usually, they tend to have a fixed set of foods that they gravitate towards too. Many factors may be the root cause of this, such as having a bad experience with certain foods, or stressful mealtimes at the table. 

The One Who Doesn’t Like Food To Touch

Though less popular but not uncommon, this type of choosy eater will only cooperate to eat if each ingredient on their plate isn’t touching. Hence, as parents, you put effort into presenting meals the way they want. 

How To Handle & Get Picky Eaters To Eat 

Never Use Force Or Bribe

kids holding ice cream, picky eater children
Credit: Alex Green via Pexels

Forcing your kids to eat (especially if they’re not even hungry) will only worsen their fussy behaviour. Mealtimes can already be stressful for them, and you wouldn’t want them to associate this with more anxiety. Also, don’t bribe them with screen time on the iPad or with sweet treats like chocolate, ice cream, or cake. They’ll end up being motivated to eat main meals for the wrong reason (which is to get the reward). 

Serve More Variety In Smaller Portions

Avoid sticking to the same type of meals and offer them more variety. For example, a new flavour or colour of fruits and vegetables every week, along with healthy proteins, meat, and seafood. You should also serve smaller portions of new foods, and allow them to proactively ask for more once they’re comfortable.

Be Patient With New Foods

Granted, it will take many attempts before children get used to foods they’re not familiar with. However, don’t give up and instead, try letting them taste a new flavour or texture up to 10 times. Make sure to cook the new food in various ways and add herbs and spices to make it tastier. To ensure your child is actually hungry during mealtimes, limit snacks throughout the day. 

Get Creative With Food Presentations

fun food presentation for kids
Credit: Sydney Troxell via Pexels

Kids eat with their eyes first and hence, presentation is key. Have fun and be creative with how you arrange food on a plate and who knows? That might just do the trick to get picky eaters to eat! Plus, make it easier for your little ones to eat by chopping food into smaller bite-sized pieces. Kids love a good sensory experience.

Set Good Examples 

If you’re a picky eater yourself, chances are, your kids will follow suit. Hence, it’s important to be a good role model by eating healthy, balanced meals while being open to consuming a wide variety of foods. Meanwhile, avoid showing disgust (whether through words, facial expressions, or body language) towards new foods. 

Eat Together & Eliminate Distractions

Eating should be a mindful experience. It’s good practice to have all family members sitting together at the dining table while enjoying the same meal. Make sure the TV is switched off and put away mobile phones and other gadgets that may distract your fussy eater

Related: The Best Baby High Chairs That Will Make Feeding Your Little Ones Much Easier

Get Kids Involved In Meal Planning Or Cooking

girl helping in kitchen
Credit: Alex Green via Pexels

Doing grocery shopping online? Why not get your kids to help pick out ingredients they like? In the kitchen, assign them simple tasks like rinsing vegetables or get their input on what recipes you should cook. This way, they can exercise healthy control over food and are more likely to eat the meals served. 

Introduce Familiar Flavours, Colours, And Textures

One way to introduce new foods to choosy eaters is to start with something similar to a flavour, colour, or texture they’re familiar with. For instance, if they like pumpkin, it’ll be easier to introduce sweet potato. If they like zucchini, try introducing cucumber next. You get the gist. 

Smart Food Pairings

Another strategy to get fussy eaters to eat is by combining the foods or flavours they love and know, with the ones they don’t. This will gradually expand their taste buds and ease the transition. For example, if they like the saltiness of cheese, grate some and sprinkle over broccoli, which is a bit bitter.  

Start Correcting Picky Eaters At A Young Age So It Doesn’t Continue Into Adulthood 

girl eating salad, picky eater
Credit: Alex Green via Pexels

The key to overcoming picky eating in children is to combat the bad habit early on in their childhood. By doing so, they’re less likely to become an adult picky eater. On top of that, it’s important to remember that kids don’t change their eating habits overnight, so be patient! Keep trying the above-mentioned tips and if they’re heading back to school soon, get inspired by these lunch box ideas for kids that will have them looking forward to recess. 

If you’re still worried that your child isn’t getting enough nutrition, read this guide on the healthiest foods for kids’ growth and development. Also, snacking can be healthy. Just take cues from these sweet and savoury snack recipes for kids

Leave a Reply