3-5 yrs

Dealing with Picky Eaters

Got a picky eater on your hands? Here are a few tips to help you deal with your child’s behavior in a positive way.
picky eater

Do you have a picky eater in your home? Do any of the statements below remind you of your preschooler?

  • “Mayank won’t eat anything green, just because of the color.”
  • “Alisha will only eat peanut butter sandwiches!”
  • “Myra doesn’t sit still at the table. She can’t seem to pay attention long enough to eat a meal!”

Your child may eat only a certain type of food or refuse foods based on a certain color or texture. They may also play at the table and may not want to eat. Don’t worry if your child is a picky eater. Picky eating behavior is common for many children from the age of 2 to 5 years. As long as your child has plenty of energy and is growing, he or she is most likely eating enough to be healthy.

Many children will show one or more of the following behaviors during the preschool years. In most cases, these will go away with time.

  • Your child may refuse a food based on a certain color or texture. For example, he or she could refuse foods that are red or green, contain seeds, or are squishy.
  • For a period of time, your preschooler may only eat a certain type of food. Your child may choose 1 or 2 foods he or she likes and refuse to eat anything else.
  • Sometimes your child may waste time at the table and seem interested in doing anything but eating.
  • Your child may be unwilling to try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables. It is normal for your preschooler to prefer familiar foods and be afraid to try new things.

Coping with picky eating: Your child’s picky eating is temporary. If you don’t make it a big deal, it will usually end before school age. Try the following tips to help you deal with your child’s picky eating behavior in a positive way.

  • Let your kids be “produce pickers”: Let them pick out fruits and veggies at the store.
  • Have your child help you prepare meals:  Children learn about food and get excited about tasting food when they help make meals. Let them add ingredients, scrub veggies, or help stir food.
  • Offer choices: Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or cauliflower?”
  • Enjoy each other’s company while eating family meals together: Talk about fun and happy things. If meals are times for family arguments, your child may learn unhealthy attitudes toward food.
  • Offer the same foods for the whole family: Don’t be a “short-order cook,” by making a different meal for your child. Your child will be okay even if they don’t eat a meal every now and then.

Trying new foods: Your child may not want to try new foods. It is normal for children to reject foods they have never tried before. Here are some tips to get your child to try new foods:

  • Small portions, big benefits: Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. When they develop a taste for more types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
  • Offer only one new food at a time: Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food. Offering more new foods all at once could be too much for your child.
  • Be a good role model: Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.
  • Offer new foods first: Your child is most hungry at the start of a meal.
  • Sometimes, new foods take time: Kids don’t always take to new foods right away. Offer new foods many times. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.

Having your preschooler help you in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods. Kids feel good about doing something “grown-up.” Give them small jobs to do. Praise their efforts. Children are much less likely to reject foods that they helped make. If you still have concerns about your child’s growth or eating behavior, talk to your child’s doctor.


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