6. Set a good example
If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
7. Be creative
Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
8. Minimize distractions
Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods.
9. Don't offer dessert as a reward
Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child's desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
10. Don't be a short-order cook
Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.
If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your child's doctor. He or she can plot your child's growth on a growth chart. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days. The big picture might help ease your worries. A food log can also help your child's doctor determine any problems.
In the meantime, remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight — but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.
Sept. 06, 2014
See more In-depth
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- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Picky eating — How to cope. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/picky-eaters/cope-with.html. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Help them try new foods. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/picky-eaters/new-foods.html. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Make food fun. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/picky-eaters/make-food-fun.html. Accessed July 17, 2014.
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- Duryea TK. Dietary recommendations for toddlers, preschool, and school-age children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 16, 2014.
- Holt K, et al. Bright Futures Nutrition. 3rd ed. Elk Grove, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011:68.
- Phrases that help and hinder. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/preschoolers/picky-eaters/phrases-help-hinder.html. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Butte NF, et al. Nutrient intakes of US infants, toddlers and preschoolers meet or exceed dietary reference intakes. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110:S27.