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Kids 101: How To Get Your Picky Eater To Try New Foods

Tue, October 5, 2010 8:30am EDT by Add first Comment

How do you get your child to eat the “green stuff”? And is it bad for them to have Cheerios for two meals a day? Our BFFs at spoke to a nutritionist who answers the most commonly asked questions about picky eaters.

Do you feel like a short-order cook trying to please your picky eater? Or worry that your child’s insistence on eating mac ‘n’ cheese for every meal is depriving him of important nutrients? The key to coping with a child’s picky eating is patience, says nutritionist Sue Gilbert, M.S. It’s also important to know that the following picky-eating behaviors are normal:

• Children go on food “jags” where they seemingly eat only one food.
• Children need fewer calories than you think — which means that they may be full when you think they’re being finicky.
• Children are separatists who typically like their foods individually, not combined or even “touching.”
• Children are wary of new foods. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer them new things to try, but keep your expectations low and your attitude upbeat when you do.

Learn more about feeding your picky eater from Sue Gilbert below.

How can I get my child to try different foods?
Familiarity is the key to acceptance. Try serving foods that you want your child to try over and over again. Include a small portion on your child’s plate and let him take it from there. If he won’t even touch it, that’s okay. Just be sure that you also have one or two of his favorite foods on hand so he won’t go hungry. When he gets close to being willing to taste something new, reassure him that he can take it out of his mouth if he doesn’t like it. It may take months before a child expands his food repertoire. Until then, maintain a relaxed attitude, let him know that you are enjoying his company during family dinners and keep the emphasis off what is not being eaten.

How can I be sure my picky eater is getting the proper nutrients?
A child’s limited likes can be nutritionally adequate if they encompass all the food groups. To be sure that your child is getting sufficient nutrients, watch to see if he’s eating any one food group at the exclusion of others. For example, if at the end of several days you notice that he is filling up on carbohydrates while eating nothing with protein, make some adjustments to his diet by offering him protein-rich foods like cheese or yogurt. Use the Food Pyramid as a guide to help you properly assess your child’s diet.

I feel like a short-order cook at dinnertime. How can I get my child to eat what I make?
Continue to offer your child new foods at dinnertime, but make sure that there is at least one thing on the table that you know your child will eat. Then offer a limited number of backup foods, like peanut butter or cereal, that don’t require cooking or cleaning up and that kids can prepare themselves. Even preschoolers can get a jar of peanut butter from the kitchen and spread it on bread when they don’t like dinner.

To read more, go to

Tell us: How do you get your kids to eat their veggies?