Picky Eating

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  • Do you have a picky eater at home? Are meal times often a losing battle?

Most children go through a phase of picky eating at some point in their lives. Picky eating often starts to show at ages 1-2 as this is when they start to express their opinions. It is totally normal for them to love one food one day and refuse it the next. So how do we combat picky eating? Well, one easy place to begin is to…

Get your kiddos involved!

  • Have kids play a role in picking meals for the week
  • Bring kids grocery shopping with you and let them pick out a new food
  • Get your kids in the kitchen
  • Get your kids to help with meal preparation (washing, grating, peeling, mashing) 

By allowing kids to choose a meal, they may feel more involved and excited for the meal when it is time to eat. Most kids are more likely to try a meal they lend a hand in helping make or have chosen, because it gives them a sense of connection to it. 

Key Tips:
Limit grazing or constant snacking.

If your child is a chronic snacker,  have set meal times and set snack times. If they graze, they are eating enough that they are no longer hungry but are also likely not full. It is important for them to learn hunger and fullness cues as this is something many adults struggle with. Kiddos do best with set times for meals and snacks because it allows them to develop routine and can aid in the perception of hunger and fullness cues, as they know when the next time they will be eating is. Here are some meal time examples that may help your kids curb constant snacking; 

Sample Meal Times 
3 meals and 2-3 snacks this can often look like:

​Breakfast 6am 
Am snack 8:30/9am
Lunch 11/11:30am
PM Snack 2pm 
Supper 5/5:30pm 
Bed Time Snack 6:30/7pm 

Breakfast 7am 
Am snack 9am
Lunch 11:30am/12pm
PM Snack 2/2:30pm 
Supper 5/5:30pm 
Bed Time Snack 7pm/7:30pm 

Breakfast 9am 
Am snack 10:30/11am
Lunch 11:30am/12pm
PM Snack 2/2:30pm 
Supper 5/5:30pm 
Bed Time Snack 7pm/7:30pm 


Let your kids play with their food!
Gone are the days where playing with food is considered a bad thing! Food exploration can help to prevent picky eating and can reduce sensory challenges because it allows children to familiarize themselves with new foods. Family meal times can be an opportunity for food rules to be thrown out the window. Let your kids use their hands; use all their senses. If you’re not sure where to start, try having your kiddo describe the colours, flavours, sounds (for example: when you bite it is it crunchy?) , smells, and/or the textures of their food. ​The language we use around food is just as important as our attitudes about it!


Remove tasting pressure and forget about bribery.
​Pressure = increased anxiety.
Increased anxiety actually decreases the hunger hormone, making it even more difficult for your kiddo to try “just one bite”.
In the same way, bribery causes pressure and makes food appear like a chore; a seemingly negative thing they have to do in order to receive the reward. 
No more “just one bite”, or “you have to eat this to get ____”, or “finish everything on your plate or you don’t get dessert.” Studies have shown that by putting pressure on children to eat, or bribing them can lead to over eating and teaches them to mute their fullness cues. When the pressure is removed and eyes are off your kiddo at meal times, amazing things can happen. 

Make Meal Times Enjoyable
Studies have shown that children will eat better when in a calm, comfortable environment. Additionally, meal times should be free of distractions like screens (TV, com
puter, tablet or phones). Making the time to eat dinner as a family can also be incredibly beneficial, as family meals encourage a safe space for discussion. Studies from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) show that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs. In the study, CASA compared teens who ate meals with their families 5-7 times a week to those who ate with their families twice or less. Those where ate with their families more often were 2.5 times less likely to do illicit drugs, and half as likely to consume alcohol.

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