Parents of picky eaters understand the frustration of having their child believe that everything green is the enemy. Recently, Kounsel brought on Andrea Berez to talk about tips for parents of picky eaters. Here are some of her top tips on how to make mealtimes healthy, fun, and doable for your family.

Picky eaters

Picky eating is actually a relatively common problem in childhood. It is characterized by a toddler or child eating a limited amount of food, restricting intake of vegetables, being unwilling to try new foods, and having strong food preferences. Various studies have found that anywhere from 8-50% of children qualify as picky eaters.

Toddlerhood is marked by independence as well as a slower rate of growth and subsequently lesser appetite. Berez says that food is an area where toddlers try to exert control, which is why issues can come up during mealtime.


Roles in feeding

Parents and children have distinct responsibilities when it comes to feeding and being fed. Berez points to Researcher Ellyn Satter’s theory of the division of responsibility in feeding. Parents are responsible for the structure, support, and opportunities of feeding, while children choose whether they want to eat from what their parents provide and how much to eat if so.

In particular, Berez emphasizes that you shouldn’t feel forced to make your kids eat when you think that they should eat. Keeping this in mind is essential as kids become toddlers and will benefit them throughout childhood.


Tips for your picky eater

  1. Keep offering new foods. It can take up to 10 tries for a child to like a new food.

2.  Presentation is key. Make the food look fun.

3.  Eliminate distractions.

4.  It’s okay to be messy. Let your child experience all of the qualities of a food.

5.  Make meals family-style, meaning every person at the table can help themselves to whatever items they desire.

6.  Show your child someone they find cool likes the food being offered to them, such as a character on their favorite educational cartoon.

7.  Meet your child halfway by offering multiple choices.

8.  Talk to your child about the benefits of the food being offered.

9.  Use a food chain. Healthy eating won’t happen overnight; ease your child into the foods you want them to eat. For example, if they like french fries, you can slowly transition them into eating baked sweet potatoes.

10.  Don’t force your child to eat a food if they can get the benefits somewhere else (for example, if they don’t like meat but enjoy eggs or yogurt, they can eat more of those for protein).

11.  Try feeding your child a variety of different vegetables.

12.  Offer irrelevant choices (for example, if your child prefers eating on a blue plate, let them eat on the blue plate).

13.  “No thank you” bites – encourage your child to take a few bites of something they don’t like.

14.  Give clear praise and be careful about how you praise them. For example, say something like “I’m so glad you ate the broccoli! Did you like it?” rather than “it made me so happy when you ate that!”

15.  Allow the use of dips and sauces, such as ketchup or ranch, in moderation.

16.  Eat the rainbow – make eating colorful fruits and vegetables into a game.

17.  Keep portions small.

18.  Cut out snacking right before a meal.

19.  Be a good role model with your eating habits.

20.  Let kids help in the kitchen. This can make them more excited to eat.

21.  Don’t call your child a picky eater.

22.  Stand your ground and stay calm.

23.  Seek the advice of your pediatrician and a qualified pediatric dietician. You can search on for dietitians in your area.

Picky eaters versus problem feeders

It is important to distinguish between picky eaters and problem feeders. If you find that your child is refusing to eat, vomiting and gagging, or you can’t take them out to eat without issues, Berez recommends seeing a feeding specialist. Contact your doctor if you are struggling with feeding your child.


Being patient with your child, making mealtimes fun and enjoyable, and following the science can help your picky eater become a curious food adventurer.

About Andrea Berez:

Andrea Berez is a Registered dietitian, pediatric, and family nutrition specialist. She has more than 20 years of experience working with adults, teenagers, children, and families with eating, feeding, and weight issues. She also works with health issues such as eating disorders; food allergies and intolerances; IBS and functional stomach issues; PCOS; prediabetes; and high cholesterol, to name a few. Contact Andrea on Kounsel for support.