How to End the Picky Eating Struggle
How to handle it: Stick to a regular schedule with three meals and a morning and afternoon snack time. “This helps children get enough to eat while building an appetite for meals,” Jacobsen says.
3. Your child wants to assert her independence. Many parents know that one of toddlers’ favorite words is “no!” At mealtimes, pushing away that plate is another way for her to feel in control. “It’s a natural part of development,” Jacobsen says.
How to handle it: Don’t turn meals into a power struggle. Resist the urge to order your kid to eat her peas. She might end up wanting to avoid that food for life. The same goes for pressuring or bargaining with her -- “you can only have dessert if you clean your plate.”
Instead, let her make her own decisions. “You can discuss the benefits of certain foods,” Lemond says. “With my son, I explained how eating broccoli could help him with his goal of being a good soccer player.”
4. Your child has a medical problem. It’s not common, but some kids are picky eaters because of a health condition. “If your child seems overly anxious around food or often refuses to come to the table, that may be a red flag,” Jacobsen says. She may have a food allergy or a problem with the way her brain interprets information from her senses, called a sensory processing disorder.
How to handle it: Talk to your pediatrician. Mention if your child tends to refuse foods with a specific texture, such as crunchy chips and crackers, or often says she’s itchy or has an upset stomach.
Build Healthy Eating Habits
Along with addressing any specific food issues, some general habits can help your child get past a picky eating phase.
Offer options. A few different dishes on the table can keep meals from becoming a battleground. For example, if you’re having pasta, set out the noodles, sauce, meat, salad, and bread, family-style. “Your child might just end up having the noodles and sauce, but that’s OK,” Jacobsen says.