Behavioral modification is an important step towards keeping picky eaters on the path to healthy development. Solutions for Picky Eaters include the following:

Being positive role models [1]

  • Offer a new food repeatedly—gradual, repetitive exposures will often result in acceptance [1]
  • Sit with children at meals and snacks [2] [1]
  • Eat what your children eat [2]
  • Plan family meals, which can encourage healthy eating [2] [1]
  • Serve age-appropriate portions [4] [3]

Get children acquainted with foods through meal planning and preparation:

  • Involve children in menu planning, especially for a packed school lunch [1] [2]
  • Let children help in food preparation; let them touch and feel it [1] [2]
  • Allow children to “get messy” when they eat

Make healthy food selections

  • Include a variety of foods from all food groups for a well-balanced diet [5]
  • Encourage children to eat fruits and vegetables—cut into bite-sized portions and keep handy [5] [1]
  • Provide age-appropriate foods [5]

Establish appropriate mealtime environment and routines:

  • Set a schedule for regular meals and snacks [2] [1]
  • Create a calm, relaxed environment for eating [1] [2]
  • Encourage self-feeding [1] [2]
  • Seat children at the table and avoid distractions during meals (e.g. television, toys, etc.) [1] [2]

Familiarize and expose children to new foods frequently:

  • Offer a new food repeatedly—gradual, repetitive exposures will often result in acceptance [1]
  • Let children observe others, especially other children, eating a rejected food [2]

Limit

  • Snacking between meals [2]
  • Duration of meals

Limit

  • Distraction during the meal time
  • Forcing the child to eat

REFERENCES

  • 1Black MM, Hurley KM. Helping children develop healthy eating habits. Rev. ed. In: Tremblay RE, Peters RDeV, Biovin M, Barr RG, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Montreal, Quebec: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development; 2007.
  • 2Infant and Toddler Forum. Combining food for a balanced diet. Toddler Factsheet 1.2.
    2006: http://www.infantandtoddlerforum.org/health-childcare-professionals/factsheets. Accessed October 2010.
  • 3Dubois L, Farmer AP, Girard M, Peterson K. Preschool children’s eating behaviours are related to dietary adequacy and body weight. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61(7):846-855.
  • 4Yao MJ, Sheng X, Tong M, et al. Effects of nutrition counseling with and without growing-up milk on growth and micronutrient adequacy in picky eaters: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence Based Child Health: A Cochrane Review Journal. 2011;6(suppl 1):PP125.