Fact Sheets : Picky Or Fussy Eaters: How To Deal With Them

One of the most common concerns of parents is a fussy or picky eater. Fortunately, most picky eaters do get enough to eat and continue to grow well. Here are some facts and tips to help parents deal with their picky eaters:

  • Children need to eat frequently to sustain their high energy levels and keep their bodies growing. As a general rule, they should have 3 meals daily, and 2 well-spaced snacks.
  • What's most important to the child's health and growth is not the quantity, but the quality of the food he/she eats. So be sure to put nutritious food in front of your child, without over-emphasizing portion sizes or how much is eaten.
  • Because drinking too much liquid can lessen your child's appetite, limit liquid consumption to a total 3 to 4 cups daily. This will help ensure that your child is hungry enough to eat solid foods. Also, limit liquid intake in the hour or two before meals.
  • Satisfy your child's sweet tooth by serving foods that are naturally sweet but nutritious - like fruit instead of candy or chocolates
  • Snacks can be as important as regular meals in obtaining needed nutrients but don't allow your child to snack all day. This encourages a regular meal schedule, and avoids power struggles over when to eat. If your child doesn't eat much at one meal, he or she will probably eat more at the next.
  • Handle frustrating situations with patience, a positive attitude, and firmness without being aggressive or emotional. Also, avoid struggles, don't force-feed, plead, bribe your child, or make him/her feel guilty.
  • Try to present healthy foods in a positive light. Avoid placing foods into categories of "good" and "bad".
  • Offer your child lots of opportunities to make his/her own food choices from a variety of balanced foods that you offer and give small portions, so as not to overwhelm your child with too much food.
  • Try preparing and presenting rejected foods separately from other dishes. For example, if your child doesn't like carrots, don't put them on her plate or in the main dish. Instead, place them in a separate bowl on the table, and allow your child the choice of whether or not to have them.
  • Try serving foods your child doesn't like in new, original ways. For example, if your child insists that she hates spaghetti, try serving bow-tie pasta instead. Also, cutting vegetables in fun shapes may turn previously rejected vegetables into food that's fun to eat.
  • Make the mealtime table a relaxed and positive environment, free of family conflict tensions and distractions (such as TV, toys or games).