If you’re a parent, picky eating can make mealtime a struggle. Read on to learn how to take some pressure off you (as the provider) and your child (as the eater). The secret? Remembering those distinct roles.
As a parent, aim to decide what, when, and where food is served. Children decide whether and how much to eat.
The benefits to this include:
Allowing your child to choose how much of each food to eat creates a safe environment for them to try new things. Evidence shows that exposure of any kind to a new food (seeing, touching, smelling) can increase the likelihood that children of all ages will try it, even if it takes up to 20 exposures!
The key is to stay consistent with pressure-free feeding. It’s as simple as reassuring wary eaters with “you don’t have to eat it” alongside micro portions (think: one bite size) to limit food waste. If they don’t eat the new food, count it as an exposure. If they do eat the new food, you can always offer more. Try to include at least one food at meals that everyone likes.
The best part about all of this? Mealtime can become a space to connect, instead of a battleground.
Carruth BR, Ziegler PJ, Gordon A, Barr SI. Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers' decisions about offering a new food. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104(1 Suppl 1):s57-64.
Dazeley P, Houston-Price C. Exposure to foods' non-taste sensory properties. A nursery intervention to increase children's willingness to try fruit and vegetables. Appetite. 2015; 84:1-6.
Raise a Healthy Child Who Is a Joy to Feed. Ellyn Satter Institute. Accessed August 2022.
By Grace Cesarini, MA, CHES, MGH Dietetic Intern