Tips for the “Picky” Eater

By Brittney LaTurno, MS, CF-SLP


As a parent, do you feel like you are constantly making multiple meals at each sitting to accommodate that “picky eater” in your home? Many parents and care takers report they have difficulty getting their child to try new foods and that their toddler may only have four or five types of food that they will eat on a daily basis.

It may seem like there is a constant battle at meal time, but it is important to remember that shifting from a full liquid diet to pureed and table foods may be a difficult, overwhelming transition for your kiddo. Listed below are some helpful tips to increase your child’s interest in trying new types and textures of food!

  • Introduce a new food with food your child already enjoys.
  • Do not introduce more than one new food at a meal.
  • Continue introducing food if your child refuses it the first time (this will help he/she become comfortable with it).
  • If child prefers one type of consistency (sticky), introduce other foods with the same consistency – this will help them feel comfortable with the foods they are eating while trying new flavors.
  • Allow your child to be involved in the preparation of food. For instance, they may help warm food in microwave, put food on their plate, etc. Also, let them pick out their own utensils.
  • Serve as a good model for your child’s eating. Show them that you enjoy eating the foods that you want them to try.
  • Give your child small servings of food (1/2 tablespoon for each year of child’s age). An abundance of food on the child’s plate may be overwhelming.
  • Make meal time a relaxed atmosphere, do not pressure your child to finish all of their food. Try to talk about other enjoyable things during meal time.
  • Serve foods at different temperatures (hot, cold, warm). Talk about how each temperature feels and see which temperature he/she enjoys most.
  • Serve your child milk during meal time. However, try to give water between meals so he/she is not full when it is time to eat!
  • If your child enjoys soft foods, mix foods in applesauce or yogurt to give food a softer consistency.
  • Allow your child to practice “playing” in the mouth with chew tubes or straws
  • Allow your child to “dip” food into things they enjoy (Nutella, peanut butter)
  • PLAY with food!
    • Bring your child’s favorite toy to the table to “try” the food. For instance, if your child enjoys dolls, bring doll to table and have your child feed the doll.
    • Allow your child to get messy with food! They can explore food by feeling different textures, “painting” with food, etc.
    • Allow your child to smell foods without forcing them to eat food.
    • Play with food away from the dinner table. This will help take some pressure off.
    • Let your child make art projects using food (dry pasta, cereal). You can use a sticky consistency as the “glue.” This will help make food exciting!

It is important to note that if your child demonstrates avoidance behaviors as strong as gagging, vomiting, coughing, or extreme discomfort through mealtime, your pediatrician should be consulted.