What To Say (And What Not To Say) To A Picky Eater To Encourage Them To Eat More Variety



Having a child that is a picky eater is every parent’s nightmare. There is worry about how they will get the nutrition they need, stress over making meal plans and concerns over tantrums during meals out. When talking to our kids about food, the language we use can make all the difference. It is often a knee jerk reaction to encourage, cajole or scold a child that isn’t eating their food, but this can do more harm than good for your cause of getting a child to eat.  

It is worth understanding the best ways to approach discussions of food. You need to instill a healthy perception towards food in your kids, so it is important to know the critical dos and don’ts of talking to a picky eater.  

Ask Them What Foods They Like 

An excellent place to start is to have a discussion with your picky eater about the foods they do like. Even the pickiest eater will have some preferences and favorite foods. If the range of foods they enjoy is limited, this can make dealing with a picky eater all the more challenging, but it is crucial not to get impatient or angry. Doing so can make a child even more stubborn in their picky eating habits. Keep the topic on the foods they do enjoy and use positive language.  

Discuss The Benefits Of A Varied Diet 

Educating your kids about why a balanced diet is important can be beneficial for picky eaters. You should avoid making this into a lecture or using scare tactics. Instead, you should use age-appropriate language to talk about why people eat healthy foods and how it can benefit them. Avoid bringing their behavior and picky eating habits up during this discussion. Instead, inform them of the importance of a varied diet in terms they will understand.  

Talk Them Through The Cooking Process 

Understanding where food comes from and how it is prepared can help a child feel more comfortable trying new things and having an open mind. You should tell them where food comes from and the process that it goes through to become the food on your plate. It may help to have your child help you out in the kitchen so that they can better understand cooking and what goes into preparing a meal. Again, this should be done without pressuring or talking negatively about the child’s eating habits.  

Help Them Find Healthier Alternatives To Foods They Like 

Getting creative with the food you provide your kids can be invaluable to ensuring picky eaters get the nutrition they need. You could try to find ways to make a child’s favorite foods healthier. Talk to your child about their favorite foods and ask if they would be willing to try similar things made with more nutritious ingredients. As mentioned above, you could get their help cooking the new alternatives. 

An excellent example of healthier alternatives to a child’s favorites is cookies. Few children can resist a good chocolate chip cookie, and they don’t have to be the unhealthy snack they usually are. You could consider making paleo chocolate chip cookies like this recipe from A Clean Bake. Paleo diets remove a lot of processed food and focus on using natural foodstuffs in cooking. A Clean Bake can help ensure your picky eater gets plenty of essential nutrients without compromising taste.  

Avoid Being Critical Of Their Fussiness 

Criticizing fussy eating is one way to make a child even more stubborn in refusing food. It can be hard to keep your cool as a parent when all you’re trying to do is feed your child, but you must remember that your child isn’t refusing certain foods to be naughty. Being a picky eater is common in children, and showing compassion is essential.  

Let Them Know They Don’t Have To Eat 

When a child turns down food, the first instinct for parents is often to get them to eat it by any means necessary. This is an understandable impulse but can only worsen your child’s fussy eating. Many children are picky eaters out of a desire for control, so taking away their ability to say no to food can cause more harm than good.  

It is much better to make no big deal out of a child’s refusal to eat. Tell them they don’t have to eat if they don’t want to and direct their attention to other things on the table that they might want to eat.  

Talk About Anything But The Food During Dinner 

Mealtimes can quickly become stressful if you make the process a battle over getting your kids to eat their food. It is counter-productive and will only make picky eating worse. When having a meal, try to avoid talking about the food on the table. Take the time to bond during mealtimes and make them good experiences for your kids. The less pressure on your kids to eat, the more likely they will be to overcome their picky eating.

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