Picky Eating: Day after Day after Day

“Ugh! I never thought I would have a picky eater. Day after day, meal after meal, so many opportunities to totally FAIL as a parent!” Parenting a picky eater can be frustrating and stressful, causing any parent to succumb to the chicken nugget and french fry rut with these words: “At least I know he’ll eat it and there’s some comfort in that.” But once a family has fallen into that rut, that hole, that cavern…that deep, dark pit…well, you get the idea. It’s hard to climb out.

This week’s blog series focuses on the topic of picky eating in children. I will share strategies to help your kids become more adventurous eaters at breakfast, lunch, dinner and even in the school cafeteria. Whether you just want to know how to keep your little gourmet on the right path to adventurous, healthy eating or you are trying to find your way back to eating a veggie or two, this week’s ideas are for you.

Let’s start with 2 strategies you can begin using right away:

  • Nix the Label: Picky Eater. Although my career is focused on solving picky eating, I want you to know I never use that term in front of a child. Kids will always live up to the labels we assign to them, so best not to give them the picky eater brand. Instead, find what your child CAN do. If the best he can do is carefully spoon a Brussel sprout and put it on his plate, then declare him “The best Brussel sprout balancer in the west!” Start there. Learning to be an adventurous eater is a step by step process. The first step to learning any new skill is celebrating the smallest accomplishment and then, build from that. Tasting a Brussel sprout may still be weeks away, but today, he’s feeling darn good about his interaction with that veggie.
  • Sit! The first thing I do when I visit a home is make sure your child is positioned correctly in their high chair, booster or appropriate seating at the table. Nine times out of ten, kids are positioned incorrectly. One mother told me just last week: “I had no idea what a difference buying the correct booster seat would make for my daughter”. Once a child can sit up on their own, make sure their hips are at a 90 degree angle and they have a foot rest for stability. Toddlers and younger kids need additional stability around their hips to keep their trunk still while they practice learning to eat finger foods, use utensils and even learn to chew more advance foods. A rolled up towel behind their back to provide lumbar support and stabilize the sides of the pelvis is an easy solution.

Do you have a picky eater? How much stress does it create for you? A little? A lot? Tell us about it – we appreciate your input!

Tomorrow’s post: Strategies for kids who don’t like to eat breakfast. The stress of having a picky eater begins early for many families. As one father told me, “Every morning I wake and mutter to myself, ‘Let the Hunger Games begin.'”

Published on: April 08, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Melanie Potock
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP is a certified speech language pathologist, a national speaker on the topic of picky eating, and the author of the award winning parenting book, Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food!
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Recent Comments

I never thought of making sure the seat was good. We have a booster on the dining room chair, but he’s always bouncing around in it and up and down throughout the meal. I’ll take another look at it tonight.

I am a registered dietitian and my middle child is my worst nightmare at the dinner table and the breakfast table and the lunch table. At 10 years old he is a well-established picky eater. eating at a restaurant , eating at friends houses , eating on vacation all require a plan. we gave up the fight for new foods many years ago and are stuck in that rut. I cant give up hope that I will get him to eat a piece of fruit someday… but i am honestly out of ideas.I am afraid that his label is a picky eater does afford him some special attention as a middle child …however his picky have it started long before he realized he was in the middle…fussy about the type of pacifier, the type of nipple on his bottle, and refusing baby food until nearly his first birthday. I even had terrible morning sickness and food avoidances while pregnant. Picky eating is a major source of guilt for me, anxiety for my son, and certainly affects the entire family.

I am an SLP AND my almost three year old son is a “picky/problem” eater. I am completely stressed out because he doesn’t eat a variety of foods (particularly whole food groups). I am signing up for your course coming up in September or October. I am praying for something that works for my son and for the children I work with. I want him to enjoy food and eat a variety of different foods without them being “yucky”.

Hi Katrina,
First, I am so sorry for the late reply! Must have been a glitch in my IN box – my apologies! I look forward to meeting you! Do you know that in ever single seminar, I have a therapist walk up to me and say “I’m really here for my own son/daughter…” In fact, I’ll be writing a piece about it for ASHA at the end of the year. Hope to meet you soon!