Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Myth: My child is a picky eater no matter what I try, so I can only serve foods she likes.

Answer: BUSTED!

young child eating pasta with pesto sauce
Fixing different dishes to please your child is not only time consuming, but also costly. Meal time will be less stressful if you haven’t just acted as a short-order cook for the family. Children can be picky eaters, but with a little effort you can make eating meals a stress-free time.

You are the biggest influence on your child. Encouraging your child to try a variety of foods rich in nutrients is just one way to help your child develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Let your child see that you are open to trying a new food – make trying new foods fun for the whole family. Describe the taste, texture and smell. Offer one new food at a time, and make it with something that you know your child likes. Also, try to serve it at the beginning of the meal when your child is most hungry.

Sometimes it takes several tries before a child decides they like the new food, so don’t give up after just one try. You can also fix it another way. For example, if you boil a vegetable the first time, try roasting it or eating it raw the next time.

Remember that it is your job to serve nutritious foods and your child’s job to decide what and how much to eat. Avoid lecturing or negotiating to make your child eat something.

Here are some additional tips:
  • Take your child shopping with you and let her pick out some healthy food choices.
  • Let your child help prepare the meal. Be sure to give age-appropriate and safe tasks, such as stirring.
  • Keep conversations light and fun, with no TV or phones interrupting meal time.
  • Make meals kid friendly. Your child will be more likely to try a food that is made in a fun way!
  • Serve smaller portions. It is unreasonable to serve large, adult-size portions to children.
  • Make fruit the everyday dessert, serving “treats” only occasionally.

Be a role model for your children and help them to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Cook together, shop together and eat together. Focus on each other at the table and make meals less stressful.

For more information and tips, check out Eating well on or visit

Contributor: Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

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