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Dealing with Picky Eaters

Is this a familiar scene at your dinner table?


Every night at the dinner table, I struggle to get my 4-year-old to eat something more than the bread, buttered pasta or plain rice I've served. 'Please, just try some green beans...chicken...anything besides more bread!' I get a shake of the head, sometimes an 'I hate that!' and it escalates. I threaten to take away dessert or I offer more dessert if he will eat it. Sometimes we both end up in tears!

Picky eating is a normal part of raising a preschooler – as children learn to be more independent and their appetite and growth slows, they become more selective and may even be picky. Ages 2 to 6 are prime years for picky eating, but it should slowly disappear as your child ages.   

Even as your child becomes a picky eater, refrain from giving in to their food requests and continue serving meals and snacks with a variety of food-group foods. Compromise by including at least two food-group foods during a meal that your child is likely to eat, such as milk, whole grain pasta and cooked peas.

Take a look at other normal eating development in children and then learn about a solution to help you end food battles with your picky eater below. 

Remedy for Picky Eating: Division of Responsibility

There is a better way to deal with picky eaters

  1. The parent decides what, when and where food is eaten 
  2. The child has complete control over if and how much they eat

This feeding strategy was developed by internationally recognized eating and feeding expert Ellyn Satter, R.D. who calls it the Division of Responsibility. The concept is pretty simple: the parent brings the healthy foods to the table then allows the child to choose what and how much she will eat.

1. Satter E. Eating competence: Definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007 Sep-Oct;39(5 Suppl):S142-53.
2. Orrell-Valente JK et al. "Just three more bites": An observational analysis of parents' socialization of children's eating at mealtime. Appetite. 2007 Jan;48(1):37-45.
3. Scaglioni S et al. Influence of parental attitudes in the development of children eating behaviour. Br J Nutr. 2008 Feb;99 Suppl 1:S22-5.

Make a Plan to End Picky Eating Battles

Starting I will  

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