Dealing With Picky Eaters

July 10, 2020

Posted by Lake Erie Nature and Science Center

by Meghan Barlow, Ph.D.

At many stages of development, “picky eating” is very normal and can be expected. Kids may need to be exposed to a new food 20 times before they decide if they like it. When a child has “picky eating” tendencies, mealtimes run the risk of becoming the stage for continuous daily parent-child power struggles. If your child’s doctor is not concerned about your child’s growth or nutrition, then the following tips may be all you need to survive mealtimes with your “picky eater.”


  • Try to remember that, for the most part, parents get to decide where, when, and what to serve for meals. Children can decide how much, if any, to eat.
  • Continue to serve a variety of foods to your family. Avoid making separate meals for everyone. Instead, make a meal that includes something you’re pretty sure your “picky eater” will eat along with whatever else you have planned.
  • Limit snacking so that your “picky eater” is hungry at mealtimes. Avoid allowing post-meal preferred snacks to children who don’t eat their meal. This is not a punishment, just a clear and matter-of-fact message, “if you’re not hungry enough to eat your dinner now, then we’ll save it in case you want a snack for later.”
  • Reinforce your child for trying something new and focus on eating a “rainbow of foods” to be healthy. Model healthy eating for your children by sitting with them for meals and trying new foods. Avoid begging, threatening, or bribing your child to take bites of non-preferred foods or new foods.
  • Enlist your child’s help. As you make your grocery list or do your shopping, ask your child to help you think of a “rainbow” of foods; ask, “what kind of red foods can we try this week? Hmm. What about purple? That’s a tricky one!” Children are more likely to try a food they helped purchase or prepare.
  • Serve meals that can be put together by each individual. For example, rice bowls with lots of toppings allow each person to make their own favorite combination or to eat each topping separately if they prefer.

Meghan Barlow and Associates is a Rocky River-based practice that offers comprehensive behavioral health services for children and families. Its multi-disciplinary team provides expertise ranging from traditional therapies to bolstering social skills and crafting individualized academic supports.

Topic: Preschool