Picky eating is one of the top reasons families set foot in my office. I wish the solution was quick and simple, but the reality is that it's not our job as parents to "get our children to eat." Instead, it's about helping kids be confident around food and learn how to interact with it.
Long and short term goals
In pediatric nutrition, there are 2 goals
Picky Eating vs Problem Feeding
First off, picky eating is a normal part of human development. Problem feeding on the other hand is not. See chart below for the difference.
(Please note that eating disorders are NOT the same as problem feeding. This article only refers to picky eating and problem feeding - not eating disorders)
Do not "starve" a child into trying something new
It's tempting to withhold food or punish a child to eat something new. Many adults tell me horror stories of being force fed or punished at the dinner table. If a child has physical and/or emotional discomfort when eating, using more physical / emotional discomfort does not improve the situation long term. Sure maybe the child will eat (but not all do), but it doesn't make them more confident or engaged. It just makes them want to hide from the experience of eating.
STEP 1: Rule out medical conditions
Certain medical conditions can make eating miserable for children. If your child is having a hard time eating, work with a medical professional to rule out the following:
STEP 2: Address eating behaviors and environment
Once you've ruled out medical conditions, help your child create a healthy foundation with food by establishing limits, boundaries, and responsibilities:
STEP 3: Step wise process to trying new foods
After ruling out any medical conditions, it's time to start exploring new foods.
It doesn't happen overnight
After reading this, you're probably thinking, "who has time for all of this?!" Keep in mind things aren't going to change in a week or even a month. Instead, it's about slowing down sorting through your expectations. Here are a few tips to make the process easier:
Want more resources?
Hands down, Ellyn Satter is THE feeding guru of this century. Her webinars, books, and writing can teach you a lot about how to navigating feeding the family. Check her out!
Stay nourished friends!
DISCLAIMER: The writing here is for informational and educational purposes only. It is NOT a substitute for individual care. Your needs may vary. or individual support, please contact a provider.
Please note it's been a number of years since I have updated these posts. The content and philosophies may have changed as I've grown as a provider. Please reach out with questions or concerns.
Dietitian, personal trainer, mother, wife, runner, and endurance athlete supporting well-being, one bit and bite at a time