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Many preschoolers are picky eaters. They usually outgrow it by age 4 or 5. So, what are the best ways to get them to eat until then?

"Let them choose the clothes they wear, not the foods they eat," says Atlanta-based pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD, co-author of Food Fights . "Kids get so used to mac and cheese, they forget that asparagus isn't so bad."

It helps to know some of the top reasons why they're so picky.

End the Power Struggle

"Picky habits start when children test their limits, around age 2," Shu says. "Parents don't like rejection. They hear 'no' once or twice, they don't go back to that food."

But many preschoolers need to be offered new foods several ti mes before they taste them. Serving a new food among five or six familiar choices can take the pressure off, says Boston pediatric nutritionist Linda Piette, RD, author of Just Two More Bites!

Trouble Eating

Some kids may still be mastering how to chew and swallow. Some may be inexperienced chewers.

"Many prefer meltable, crunchy carbohydrates because they're easy to eat and have a single texture," says pediatric psychologist Kay Toomey, PhD, of Greenwood Village, Colo.

Show your child what to do. "Banging a carrot on the table and talking about how hard it is teaches that the teeth will need to use pressure to break it apart," Toomey says, "versus yogurt, which is wet and smooth and can be just sucked down."

Not Hungry

Your child might be full from eating too many beverages or snacks.

"Kids carry around portable snack containers and boxes of juice, then they're not hungry for anything later," Shu says.

Her advice: Serve fewer, healthier snacks. "If the child didn't finish lunch, give those leftover peas or carrots for a snack instead of pretzels or cookies."

An Emotional Reaction

If people are arguing at the table, your child may just want to get out of there.

"Kids may try to make mealtime shorter," Shu says. "Alternately, they may try to get more attention by not eating, if they think enough attention isn't coming their way."