How to deal with the daily frustrations of picky eating and food fights? Examine your feeding decisions from the long term perspective of raising a healthy eater.

All children go through a developmental phase of not wanting to try new food or turning down food they ate happily before, somewhere between the ages of 2-7.

Reconsider how you feel about your child turning down the food you provide in the moment.

Children go through growth spurts and consolidation phases. Calories they voluntarily consume could be surprisingly different. Learn to observe food intake over a week, month or even a year time frame.

Children exhibit different “eating personalities”. They may prefer eating at a certain part of the day, they may have food sensitivities and or intolerance (sometimes unidentified, causing tummy ache, discomfort, reluctance to eat); they may have more taste buds which will make certain food taste unpleasant (supertasters); they may be adventurous eaters or they may show extreme precaution before putting anything into their mouth (possibly depending on sensory integration development or just their natural shyness). 

Every childhood creates food memories based on the taste of the food and social aspects of eating, which will be comforting in adulthood.

Today identify your children’s eating personalities.

Offer new food based on eating personality.

How? If your child eats very little during lunch and dinner, check if she will eat a fortifying breakfast. If eating at the table is high stress, involve the child in preparation so they can touch and smell the new food before facing unfamiliar food at the table.

The more you can make eating in general, and trying out new foods in particular, a low-stress situation, the better.

Every child will develop food and taste likes and dislikes, even if they are exposed to a wide range of food. Some of the preference is changeable over time (sodium or sugar preferences can be reset, taste buds’ sensitivity reduces over time). Work with your children’s developmental phases, eating personalities and tastes, not against them.

Your turn:

If you are thinking: I am doing everything I can to provide nutritious food, but my kids’ eating personality can be described with two words: picky eaters.

Try this instead: It helps me to manage the feeding with some sanity if I have a better idea of what to expect and can put my immediate feelings into context. Now that I realize that it is a dynamic process. I can work with where they are in learning to be healthy eaters instead of feeling frustrated.

Next we will talk about how to teach your child to try new food.

Caution: Extreme behavior, such as refusing food regularly even when hungry is a symptom of a medical condition requiring diagnosis and treatment.

Feed well,