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9 DOs and DON'Ts of Raising Picky Eaters: A Comprehensive Guide

A Woman Helping Child Eat
A Woman Helping Child Eat

Almost every household has a child or adult who is picky with their food. Picky eating is when a person eats the same food with a limited diet and rejects all other varieties of food. There are many reasons why a person can be a picky eater and it can be especially hard to deal with a picky child as a parent.

In this situation, the most important thing to take into account is the psychology and dos and don'ts of picky eaters. Once you know the reason behind the food rejections, you'll find a way to come up with it. Here we have compiled the dos and don'ts of picky eaters and prepared a comprehensive guide just for you. So, let's dive into it without any further ado!

Why is my Child being a Picky Eater?

All children have a phase where they are picky about their food. This is normally around the ages of two to four. Around this time, children generally begin to switch from liquids and soft food to hard food.

This transition can be difficult for some children to adjust to. This is because children are still developing their taste buds and senses. They also become more curious about the world around them and like to play with their food for this very reason.

Most importantly, children begin to grow independent from their parents around this age, which is why they get fussy and refuse whatever you give them. Understanding this can help parents make sure their child is getting enough nutrition in their food. Take a start by feeding them a healthy variety of food.

Is it Picky Eating?

Is your child a picky eater or do they just dislike certain foods? Bear in mind that children are developing at this age. You might remember hating avocado as a child but have grown into liking it as an adult.

If your child rejects a few veggies or grains here and there then they might not be picky. Remember, that everyone has something they dislike or like. If your child is refusing grapes right now then try approaching them with a different fruit.

The key to helping your child eat their food is making sure they receive all the right nutrients. As long as your child has a balanced diet from all major categories and they are receiving the required amount of nutrition in their diet, it’s okay if they don’t eat all types of veggies or fruits.

Healthy Food Portions
Healthy Food Portions

What to do Until They’ll Grow Out of it?

Giving your child the space and time to adjust to new foods can help them have a diverse palette in the future. Forcing your child to eat ‘everything’ when they aren’t ready to will only backfire.

A good way to help your child adjust to these changes in their diet is to alternate between different foods. This can help them become more comfortable with the new food. If your child is having difficulty switching from soft foods to hard foods, then it’s best to slow this transition so that they have more time to adjust.

If your child seems to reject colorful food, then try giving them one type of colored food (like an orange) and slowly add a colorful variety. When your child manages to eat the food, encourage them by giving them something they like once in a while.

9 Do's and Don'ts of Raising Picky Eaters

Now, coming to the do's and don'ts of raising picky eaters, here is what to consider:

  1. Make mealtime enjoyable

  2. Stick To A Routine

  3. Include Them In The Process

  4. Don’t Encourage The Habit

  5. Don’t Use Tricks Or Force Them

  6. Avoid Putting Restrictions

  7. Recognize And Experiment With Different Types Of Foods

  8. Eating Disorders

  9. Check For Allergies and Intolerances

Make Mealtime Enjoyable

Yup. Your child might be bored or fussy about their food and not picky. Children get bored easily, and they might refuse to eat just because they feel like it.

Try making the food more appealing by cutting a sandwich into a shape or making shapes out of fruit. You can add little pieces of veggies into a boiled egg to make a face. Interacting with your child at mealtime is important so that they like being around the dinner table.

When it’s time to eat, be firm about no electronics or distractions at the table. Eating carelessly and fast can make your child nauseous and the blame will go on the food. The best way to implement this habit is to follow it yourself.

Stick to a Routine

Not having a set routine can cause problems if you give food to your child when they aren’t hungry. Being firm about no snacks before mealtime is a good start. This way, your child will be hungry when it’s time to eat. Make sure your child gets enough physical activity as well.

Include Them in the Process

Including your child in the cooking process is a great way to get them more comfortable with the food they eat. Although parents will find this stressful, children will enjoy mixing and banging pots and pans.

Even if you just give them an apple to play with, seeing the process will do wonders for your child’s appetite. Not to mention they will be more hungry after working, and eating something they helped with will feel rewarding.

Don’t Encourage the Habit

When dealing with a picky eater, some parents choose to cook separate dishes for their children. This only appeases the habit and children often become bigger picky eaters. While it’s important to give children space to grow, leaving them completely will only make their habits worse in the future.

There will be times when you will be frustrated with your child, but don’t compare your picky eater to other children. Your child will become more conscious of their habit and it will indirectly encourage them to be pickier.

Child eating while wearing a light blue denim jacket
Child Eating

Don’t Use Tricks or Force Them

For a parent, it might seem that their child just needs to grow into the food, and the easiest way to do that is to trick them into eating. However, forcing your child to eat will come back and bite you shortly. Children can recognize and remember when they have been lied to.

This tactic might work for a while, but in the long run, your child will begin to doubt what you tell them, at the dinner table and in other aspects of their life. It’s important to build a healthy relationship with your child so that they can trust you.

If your child knows they have been tricked into eating food they didn’t like, they will become pickier about whatever is placed in front of them, which will stunt their growth and development.

Avoid Putting Restrictions

While growing up you might have heard someone say ‘you can’t leave this table until you finish your food’. This might have been because the child was being picky or not finishing their food.

If this happened to you, you might know that this often ends in crying tantrums. As a parent, it’s natural to want to teach your child to not waste food, and being concerned that they aren’t eating properly is a given.

However, forcing your child to eat will only make them weary of mealtime. Being too strict in eating habits can also cause your child to be at a higher risk for eating disorders. Respecting your child’s development can help you look out for what your child needs.

Recognize and Experiment with Different Types of Foods

Some children have sensory issues with certain foods. The most common sensory issue children face with food is texture. You may have seen a post online about how children like crackers because they are similar in texture, unlike blueberries which can be mushy or hard.

As they grow, children may also struggle to develop a liking for foods with different tastes, smells, and colors. Experimenting with different types of foods can help you recognize if the change in color, smell, or taste of the food is why your child is picky.

Most of the time, children only need extra time and help to adjust to different foods. You can help them transition from softer foods to hard foods by easing them into the change.

For instance, If your child enjoys soft food like mashed potatoes but throws a tantrum at carrots, try giving them baked or cooked carrots and slowly ease them into eating raw carrots once they become more comfortable with carrots.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders like ARFID (Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder) can cause children to be picky and avoid food. With treatment and support, you can help your child become more comfortable with their food.

In some cases, Autism and ADHD can cause severe sensory issues in children and adults. If your child has a high sensory overload, they might gag at the smell or taste of food. Understanding what your child likes and dislikes can help you get your child to become more comfortable around other foods.

If your child is not diagnosed with sensory anxiety and suffers from sensory issues and other behavioral difficulties, consider getting them checked by a doctor for any underlying issues behind their pickiness.

Check for Allergies and Intolerances

Sometimes there are underlying issues behind children avoiding or crying over certain foods. Rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, Eczema or itching, and swelling are noticeable symptoms of food allergies in children.

If you notice these problems in your child or are concerned about what your child eats, talk to a pediatrician to get your child tested for allergies.

It’s also possible that your child is not allergic but has an intolerance or sensitivity to some foods. Food intolerance happens because the body cannot digest certain foods. This can cause discomfort, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

A common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Sometimes, intolerance to certain foods is temporary and with time your child will be able to eat foods they previously couldn’t. In some cases, intolerances are severe and your child may need to avoid eating those foods for their health.


The key to helping your child eat their food is making sure they receive all the right nutrients. As long as your child has a balanced diet from all major categories and they are receiving the required amount of nutrition in their diet, it’s okay if they don’t eat all types of foods.


A child might be picky because they are having trouble adjusting to new foods, or because there is an underlying issue. It can be especially hard to deal with a picky child as a parent. By giving your child room to adjust and experience different foods, you can help them overcome this phase and prevent it from becoming a lifelong habit. Understanding the dos and don'ts of picky eaters can help parents make sure their child is getting enough nutrition in their food.

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