Get Educated

Sprout Nutrition: Picky Eaters

Suzanne Price

Robin Barrie Kaiden is renowned for helping people of all ages embrace a healthier lifestyle through nutrition and fitness counseling.  As a Licensed Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer, her smart and sensible approach to pediatrics, weight loss, sports nutrition, allergies, cardiovascular health, pre/post natal, and other areas of clinical and lifestyle nutrition has resonated with hundreds of people across the United States.  In addition to her private Manhattan-based practice for adults, children and families, she maintains a national presence as a blogger, columnist, guest speaker, and consultant.  A recognized expert on healthy eating, Robin is a trusted resource for print, television, and online media.  She appears regularly in various news, lifestyle, and entertainment stories for CBS, NBC, ABC, Parenting, Golf Fitness, Forbes.com, and other media outlets.  Robin received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Nutrition and Exercise Science from Cornell and Columbia Universities.  For more information, visit www.robinbarrie.com.

Below, she shares her advice on how to deal with children who are picky eaters. I found it extremely informative and will keep these tips in mind with my 3 year old...

Don’t panic with picky eaters!  Although this can be very frustrating, it is crucial to have patience.  As children are introduced to new foods, tastes, and flavors, there are a variety of factors that influence acceptance and refusal.  One important concept to remember is that “familiarity breeds liking”.  In fact, it can take up to 50 plus exposures to an item for true acceptance to occur.  “Exposures” may include touching, smelling, tasting, eating, playing with the food, or even just allowing it to sit untouched on your child’s plate. 

Most children accept a large array of foods up until age 2, but may have phases or food “jags” that can last until age 4 or 5.  At 2 they are walking and talking and exploring all that the exciting world has to offer (hence the term “terrible two’s”), so they are less interested in food.  This is also when their taste buds begin to evolve and likes and dislikes (some which may be genetically determined, according to research) develop.  Environmental cues also play a role here.  If exposures have been frequent, the food has been consumed and enjoyed for an extended period of time, and then is suddenly refused, one or more of the below factors may be at play.  Your child:

  • May have noticed that a parent, sibling, or friend dislikes this particular food.
  • Could have had one or more bad experiences after eating a food or foods (for example a stomach ache, an illness/cold/flu following consumption).
  • May have developed a food allergy or sensitivity to a certain food or food group.
  • Could have developed sensory issues, meaning that he or she will not tolerate certain food textures.
  • May use food refusal as a behavioral ploy, noting that NOT eating this food attracts extra caregiver attention.

If medical conditions (food allergies/sensitivities or sensory issues) are suspected, contact your Pediatrician or Registered Dietitian.  If mere picky eating appears to be the culprit, remember the parent-child division of responsibility in feeding:  The PARENT determines the types of food offered and at what time and where, while the CHILD decides which foods to eat and how much.  Ensure that the whole family eats the same food, and avoid becoming a “short-order cook”.  Also try the below tips.

  • Picky or limited eaters may require vitamin or mineral supplements.
  • “Calorie Boosters”, such as oils, butter, cheese, avocado, nuts and nut butters, added to foods will increase calories and protein in the diet.
  • Foods can be hidden (veggies in spaghetti sauce, proteins blended into soups, fruit in baked goods) while repeated exposures continue.
  • Keep junk food out of the house, and make sure the fridge is stocked with healthy options.
  • Make food fun:  involve kids in food shopping and preparation, and use fun shapes/colors/cookie cutters.
  • Be a good role model:  Choose healthy balanced meals and join kids for family meals.
  • Keep your own food aversions to yourself while allowing children to taste all foods.
  • Allow 30-45 minutes for meal times, and do not focus on or punish uneaten or untouched foods. 
  • Observe kids’ hunger cues, and note that the un-clean plate is okay.
  • Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, and remember that moderation is key.
  • Use non-food items for eating rewards, not dessert or other favorite foods. 

****If the pickiness still has you in a panic, you can always consult your Pediatrician or Registered Dietitian.

For any questions or more information, please contact me!
Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, CSSD
Robin Barrie™
Nutrition Counseling / Personal Training
Email:  rkaiden@robinbarrie.com
Website:  www.robinbarrie.com
Phone:   917-648-1421

Robin Barrie Kaiden is renowned for helping people of all ages embrace a healthier lifestyle through nutrition and fitness counseling.  As a Licensed Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer, her smart and sensible approach to pediatrics, weight loss, sports nutrition, allergies, cardiovascular health, pre/post natal, and other areas of clinical and lifestyle nutrition has resonated with hundreds of people across the United States.  In addition to her private Manhattan-based practice for adults, children and families, she maintains a national presence as a blogger, columnist, guest speaker, and consultant.  A recognized expert on healthy eating, Robin is a trusted resource for print, television, and online media.  She appears regularly in various news, lifestyle, and entertainment stories for CBS, NBC, ABC, Parenting, Golf Fitness, Forbes.com, and other media outlets.  Robin received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Nutrition and Exercise Science from Cornell and Columbia Universities.  For more information, visit www.robinbarrie.com.

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