What to do About a Picky Eater

“NO!” That’s probably one of most frequently used words in a young child’s vocabulary, especially one who is a picky eater.  There’s no doubt there have been more than a few frustrated parents out there.  Well my friends, this one is for you.

I will fully disclose that I am not a parent. Yet. But I do work for a Head Start & Early Head Start preschool & daycare.  For those of you who aren’t aware: Head Start is a preschool for low-income families that provides not only education but also health, nutrition, and parent involvement services.  The children enrolled in Head Start range in age from 3-5 years and Early Head Start enrolls pregnant mothers and children up to 3.  So while I don’t have my own little bundle of joy or wild child as some are, I do have some experience, especially with the feeding part.


  • Try out Family Style Dining. This is something implemented at Head Start that I really enjoy. The children sit in small groups and pass the food around the table. Allowing them to serve themselves gives them just enough of a sense of control that both of you can end up happy. They feel like they get a choice and you are glad to see some broccoli on their plate without having to put up a fight!
  • Practice makes perfect. Chances are your child is not going to like the food the first time around. But that doesn’t mean it’s a goner for good. Keep trying. Repeat exposure is key. Play around with the method of preparation. Your child doesn’t like cooked carrots? Maybe they would prefer them raw. Dips can help too – try a yogurt based one or hummus. Peanut butter is also great if you aren’t dealing with allergies.
  • Never say that YOU don’t like a food in front of your child.  Even if you don’t like something yourself, don’t say it out loud! Kids pick up on that and they love to mimic others. So be a good role model. If they see you eating your fruits and veggies, they will want to do the same.
  • Get the kids involved. Take them shopping and have them pick out a new fruit or veggie to try that week. Have them help out in the kitchen when you are preparing dinner. When they are involved in the process of preparing their food, they’ll be more eager to try it. This also applies to having them help you in the garden if you have one!

By Christina Molinski MS, RD

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