How to handle “PICKY EATERS”

November 18, 2023

When it comes to feeding your preschooler or daycare toddler, especially if they’re picky eaters, packing a nutritional morning snack and lunch can feel like navigating a culinary maze. The key is to combine healthfulness with fun, ensuring that the food is as appealing to the eyes as it is nourishing for the body. Here’s a guide to mastering this balance:


Understand Your Picky Eater


Firstly, understand the preferences of your picky eater. Some kids might shun certain textures or colors. Knowing these preferences can help you tailor their meals to ensure they’re both appealing and nutritional.


Creative Presentation


For lunch at daycare, consider using cookie cutters to make sandwiches into fun shapes. Kids are more likely to eat something that looks interesting. Combine this with their favorite colors in fruits and vegetables to make the mealtime experience more enticing.


Balanced Nutrition


Healthy eating for kids should include a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. For protein, think beyond meat – chickpeas, tofu, and even certain whole grains can be great sources. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole-grain bread provide long-lasting energy, while healthy fats can be found in foods like avocado and nuts.


Morning Snack Ideas


For a morning snack, think finger foods that are easy to eat and mess-free. Whole grain cereal, cheese cubes, cut-up fruit, or yogurt are all great options. You could make a fun yogurt parfait by layering yogurt with fruit and granola, letting them enjoy a mix of textures and flavors.


Involving Your Child


Involving your child in the packing process can make them more likely to eat their snacks and lunch. Let them choose between options, like whether they want apple slices or banana that day.


Keeping Food Safe


Make sure to pack the food in an insulated lunch bag with ice packs to keep perishable items safe until it’s time to eat.


Trial and Error


Don’t be disheartened if something comes back uneaten. It can take several exposures to a new food before a child accepts it. Keep trying, but also keep a rotation of known favorites.




Teach your child about the benefits of eating healthily. Use simple terms to explain how certain foods can make them strong, smart, and full of energy.


Lead by Example


Kids mimic adults, so if they see you enjoying a variety of foods, they’re more likely to do the same.


By following these tips and continually experimenting with different foods and presentations, you can ensure your picky eater receives the nutrition they need while making mealtime a fun and stress-free experience. Introducing new foods to a picky eater can be a gradual process. The key is persistence without pressure. Here’s a general guideline you can follow:


Consistent Offerings:


Offer new foods multiple times, in small amounts, and without forcing the child to eat them. It’s widely suggested that children may need to be exposed to a new food 10-15 times before they accept it.

Regular Meal and Snack Times:


Maintain a routine with regular meal and snack times. Offer the new food alongside favorites during these times.

Patience is Key:


Be patient with the process and avoid turning mealtime into a battleground. It’s important to stay calm and positive, even if the child refuses the food.

Role Modeling:


Eat the same foods as your child to set an example. Seeing you eat and enjoy the food can encourage them to try it.

Incorporate in Different Ways:


Try offering the food in different ways. For example, a child who doesn’t like steamed carrots might enjoy them raw with a dip.

Limit Snacks Before Meals:


Ensure that the child is hungry at mealtimes by limiting snacks beforehand, which can increase the likelihood of them trying new foods.

Avoid Bribery:


Resist the urge to bargain with your child (e.g., “If you eat your vegetables, you can have dessert”). This can create a negative association with the food you’re trying to encourage them to eat.

Remember, the goal is to create a stress-free environment that encourages the child to try new foods voluntarily. Patience and persistence often pay off, so continue offering new choices regularly without forcing them.