Like adults, children have different preferences when it comes to food. Temperatures, colors and textures may influence whether a child will try and/or like a new food. Some children are "picky eaters", and prefer certain types or textures of food and refuse many others. However, a child refusal to eat certain foods is not considered "Picky" if lack of nutrition affects growth and development.
Strategies to Help Picky Eaters
Keep the options Open
It can take ten to fifteen attempts before a child will accept new food! The goal is to keep presenting new options while making the options easier to eat. For example, roasting vegetables may make them taste sweeter or adding a squirt of lemon to cook broccoli may make it tastier. Some children may refuse to eat cauliflower in head form, but will devour cauliflower rice! Presenting several different options may help turn a refusal into a try.
The order of presentation and the amount of food given can affect if and how much food a child will eat at mealtime. Try presenting things children are less excited about eating for example "veggies" at the beginning of the meal when they are most hungry, followed by food favorites example "chicken nuggets" near the end of the meal. A good rule of thumb for determing serving size is one tablespoon per year of age. For example, two tablespoons of corn is appropriate for a two year old. When portioned correctly, it can appear much more manageable to eat most of the food on the plate.
Timing is Everything
If you know your child is cranky and struggles after a certain time each night, try to have dinner before that happens. Kids who aren't fighting sleep are more likely to sit long enough to try new food!
Imagination Food Station
Some kids may be unimpressed with a particular food or dinner combination. Combining certain foods to create something new such as "ants dinner combination" example, raisens and peanut butter on a celery stick or inventing new names for familiar staples such as calling broccoli "green alien trees" can be enough fun to shake up the dinner time routine.
One Bite Rule
The one bite rule is a great option if a child is refusing to try something new or refuses a food they have eaten in the past. The goal of this rule is not to get a child to eat all of the new food today, but to help them learn to like it over time; therefore, it is important that caregivers hold up their end of the deal and mvoe on after one bite.
If you are worried your child is more than a a "picky eater" ask your pediatrician for a referral to a Speech Language Pathologist SLP or feeding specialist. An SLP or professional with experience working with feeding and swallowing will be able to determine if your child is going through a typical toddler phase or recommend further evaluation and intervention.