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Community Connection For Child Care

Kern County Superintendent of Schools

Picky or Choosy Eaters?

Feeding young children can be a real challenge. We know children need a nutrient dense diet (lots of nutrients for the amount of energy in the food) to grow and develop properly. But what can we do to get children to eat enough of the right kind of foods?

  • Create a pleasant eating environment.
  • Mealtime should be a happy unhurried time.
  • Serve familiar foods with new foods.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time to gain greater acceptance.
  • Serve age-appropriate servings. Large servings make children feel overwhelmed.
  • Schedule meal time after a quiet activity such as story time so children are rested and ready to eat.
  • Allow children to decide how much they will eat.
  • Serve the foods children need to grow and develop.
  • Remember that a picky eater may fill up on cookies at snack time if they are offered. Serve these foods only occasionally.
  • Allow children to participate in meal time preparation. Setting the table or helping to stir the vegetable dip may be all that is needed to encourage better eating.
  • Serve interesting foods that will appeal to children. Bite-sized pieces, interesting shapes, small muffins, and funny sounding names are just a few ideas for you to try.
  • Remember that children can balance their diets over several days, not one meal or one day.
  • Make a variety of foods available to them each week.
  • Use pretend play. Set up a fruit and vegetable stand, a market or a farm.
  • Serve attractive good tasting foods. Food should taste and look good as well as be good for the child.
  • Focus on your child’s positive eating behavior not on the food.
  • Stay positive and avoid criticizing or calling any child a picky eater. Children believe what you say!
  • No grunts, grimaces, or negative comments allowed. More precise descriptions are okay: “sour,” “chewy,” or the always safe “very interesting.”
  • Give funny names to food your child is reluctant to try. Be creative, such as broccoli “trees” and tofu “blocks.”
  • Experiment with different forms of the same food. For instance, if your child doesn’t go for diced carrots, try carrot “coins” or shredded carrots. Instead of spaghetti noodles, try alphabet noodles, bow tie pasta, or shells.
  • Set children up to finish the food on their plates by starting them out with small portions. A huge plateful of food can overwhelm and take a child’s appetite away. Finally…You Can Lead Them to a New Food, But You Can’t Make Them Eat!

So, What is A Good Eater Anyway?

  • Likes eating
  • Is interested in food
  • Feels good about eating
  • Likes being at the table
  • Can wait a few minutes to eat when hungry
  • Can try new food and learn to like it
  • Likes a lot of different foods
  • Can eat until full
  • Can stop when full
  • Can eat in other places besides home
  • Can say politely when he/she doesn’t want to eat
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