Tips and tricks to manage picky eating
- Make meal times a happy time – let your child feed themselves, explore their food and decide when they’ve had enough.
- Turn off the TV and other devices to avoid distractions and allow for social engagement.
- Try to avoid having snacks too close to a meal time to make sure your child is hungry – aim for a routine of three main meals and 2-3 snacks each day.
- Get the kids involved in meal times – often when they’re involved in preparing a meal, like stirring a pot, cracking an egg or tossing a salad, they’re more likely to eat it.
- Always put familiar foods on their plate, then just one new food.
- Don’t overcrowd their plate. Give your child a family meal but in a portion suitable for them. Keep it to four or five different foods per meal.
- Make meals healthy by choosing a variety of foods from the five food groups (dairy, fruit, vegetables and legumes, lean proteins and grains).
- If a food is refused, just keep offering it – it might take 10-15 times before they even have a taste.
- Make the food fun – cut it into shapes, give them names, serve them on a plate or in bowls of the child’s favourite characters.
- Ignore picky food behaviours – the attention from it or your reaction is likely to exacerbate the behaviour.
- Be a good role model – serve a family meal offering the same foods to your child so they can see you like healthy food and are willing to try new foods.
- It might be tempting but never force your child to eat a food.
- Try not to stress about the mess! The more anxious you are, the more likely your child will have more picky eating behaviours.
- Avoid using food as a reward for eating another food – for example rewarding with ice-cream when they’ve eaten some broccoli.
- Praise your child when they try a new food or eat a decent serve of their food.
- Set a time limit for the meal (20 minutes is a good guide) – children show clear signs they’ve had enough to eat so keep an eye out for them. After that time, take the food away and offer no more until the next meal or snack time.
If you have any concerns about your child’s picky eating, check with your healthcare professional.