Picky Eater Emergency: What to Do With Food-Choosy Children?

Dealing with a picky eater can be one of the most frustrating challenges for parents.

Many of us have faced the dinner table standoff with little ones who refuse to eat anything green or anything that isn’t shaped like a dinosaur or a star. The struggle to provide proper nutrition while avoiding a meltdown can take the joy out of mealtime.

Picky eating is a common phase during toddlerhood, but it doesn’t have to be a constant battle. As a pediatrician and a parent of 5 children, I’m here to share some effective strategies to help you navigate this challenging phase and ensure your child gets the nutrition they need.

1. Don’t Force Foods

It’s tempting to coax your child into finishing their plate or to insist they try a new vegetable. However, forcing food can create negative associations and anxiety around eating. Instead, make mealtimes a safe and enjoyable space. If your child says they aren’t hungry, respect and listen to that. Remember, research shows that forcing food doesn’t make a kid less picky.

Avoid food fights and let your child express their hunger cues. Pressuring kids to eat can backfire and make them dislike certain foods.

2. Keep Up a Routine

Children thrive on routine. Serve meals and snacks at consistent times each day—aim for three meals and two snacks. Establishing a predictable eating schedule helps regulate your child’s appetite and prevents excessive snacking on unhealthy foods. Continue offering new foods, even if your child initially rejects them; it may take multiple tries for their taste buds to accept a particular food.

3. Start Small with Portion Sizes

Large portions of new or non-preferred foods can overwhelm toddlers. Serve just one bite initially and gradually increase the portion size as they become more comfortable with the food. Remember, it can take multiple tries for a child to like a particular food, so be patient.

4. Talk About Food

Engage your child in conversations about food. Describe the colors, textures, and flavors. Make it fun! Ask questions like, “What does this broccoli taste like?” or “Can you guess what’s in this smoothie?” Encourage curiosity and exploration.

Resist the temptation to bribe your children with treats for eating other foods. This can create negative associations and lead to dinner table battles.

5. Make Meals Fun

Get creative with presentations. Arrange fruits and veggies into smiley faces or animal shapes. Use colorful plates and utensils. When food looks appealing, kids are more likely to give it a try.  Plus, involving them in meal preparation can make eating an exciting adventure.

Variety matters in “making meals fun.” Offer a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits. Include protein-rich foods like meat and fish. Experiment with herbs and spices to make meals more appealing.

6. Cook the Same Meals for All Family Members

Model healthy eating by serving one meal for everyone. Avoid making a separate meal if your child refuses what’s served, or shall I say, avoid becoming a short-order cook. 

Prepare one family meal and serve it to everyone. When children see adults enjoying the same food, they’re more likely to try it themselves. Plus, it simplifies meal planning for busy parents.

7. Get Kids Involved in Meal Planning

Take your child grocery shopping and let them choose a fruit or vegetable to try. Involve them in simple cooking tasks, like stirring or washing produce. When kids feel ownership over their food choices, they’re more likely to embrace variety.

8. Limit Distractions

Turn off screens during meals. Distractions can lead to mindless eating and prevent kids from paying attention to their hunger cues. Create a calm environment where they can focus on the food in front of them.

9. Let supplements help you

Kids’ multivitamin supplements, like TruHeight Kids, a brand that I always recommend, help picky eaters meet their nutritional needs when their diet is far from being well-rounded because of their eating habits.

In the form of gummies, milk powder, and protein shake, these supplements support growth, immune function, and cognitive development, ensuring essential nutrients are provided despite a limited diet. Plus, their tasty flavors can encourage better eating habits.

While supplements’ functions are to fill the nutritional gaps, providing our children a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is still the main goal for us parents and it is best to consult with a pediatrician before having your child start any supplement. 

Seeking Additional Help

Please remember that it’s common for toddlers and preschoolers to go through phases of picky eating. Typical healthy toddlers and preschoolers often have erratic eating habits. They might eat a lot one day and very little the next, and their preferences can change frequently. It’s very common for them to favor familiar foods and reject new ones. They may also prefer small, frequent meals rather than three large ones. 

While some children naturally overcome this phase with time, others may really require additional support. If you’ve tried various strategies without success, don’t worry—you are not alone. Many parents experience similar difficulties. Seeking assistance from experts can provide personalized and tailored guidance to help manage your child’s eating habits effectively.


Parenting a picky eater can be challenging, but remember, you’re not alone. As kids develop their food preferences, it’s normal for them to be fickle and unpredictable. Instead of getting frustrated, try the tips I mentioned above and do not overthink it. This is a phase that’s not going to last forever and forcing food into your kid’s mouth is never advisable. When things get tough with your picky eaters, seeking the help of experts for personalized advice can take off some weight off your shoulder.

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