Picky Eater Solution: Just Eat It

By Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am — Filed under:

Valerie at iPortion sent this link to an article about feeding children. I was raised by my mother, who did rather well feeding me and my grandmother, who gave me a long list of worries and habits that eventually mutated into my bingeing behavior. This article is right on about preventing eating disorders in children.

Based on this article, the worst thing you can do to a child is label them a picky eater.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said everybody was born with a taste for sweetness because breast milk was sweet. The worst thing a parent could do was brand their child as a fussy eater. “It leads to parents giving children junk food, saying it’s better than nothing. It’s almost never better than nothing; the child may go without food for a couple of days and it won’t hurt them in a non-famine situation,” Dr Stanton said.

Being a picky eater can haunt your child all through adulthood unless they conquer it themselves. I’ve seen adults say that they couldn’t eat vegetables (and many other healthy foods) for reasons other than, “I just can’t swallow them.” After suffering with a stomach disorder that limited my food choices almost arbitrarily, I had little sympathy for them.

If you have a child who is a picky eater, keep offering them healthy food. If they don’t want to eat it, they must not be hungry enough. Don’t offer them Pop Tarts, let them learn that eating healthy is the only option. After a dozen or so exposures, they should be more willing to eat the healthy stuff.

More importantly, if you’re a picky eater, treat yourself the same. Expose yourself to foods that you “just can’t swallow” regularly. You will eventually earn a taste for the healthier food. You can conquer your own picky eating habits.


5 Responses to “Picky Eater Solution: Just Eat It”

  1. Ernie Says:

    Thanks for this! I’m sending the article link to my wife.

    Last night, I got home after the family was sitting down for dinner. My son hadn’t touched a bite, so my wife had put down sliced apple, peanut butter and marshmellow fluff for him to have. He didn’t eat it, but I still don’t see that as a good alternative to healthier choices. Come to find out, he had eaten a big lunch and probably just wasn’t hungry.

    Thanks again!

    PS – Sorry that I missed commenting on the Question of the Day this week. I tried to submit the comment and it wouldn’t allow it. Not sure why.

  2. iportion Says:

    I really loved the article and I think I want to apply it even more.

  3. Karla Says:

    I’m the mother of a “picky eater” and this helped me understand how much I may be contributing to the problem. Despite my problematic labeling, I do think that I do many things right, even though they aren’t “working” right now. One thing is that I don’t take it personally, and I don’t push certain kinds of food, and don’t make a fuss when he doesn’t eat something. My son has some particular sensory issues that I think make food an issue for him. Although he doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables, he does eat healthy in most other ways– wholegrain cereal, yogurt, pasta, chicken. He’s thin but strong and he is healthy. I believe he will probably eventually outgrow many of his food hangups, with time. For now, this article really helped me realize that I shouldn’t label him as a picky eater (or, as I did just this morning, correct him when he tried a new food and he said that he liked everything that I did). I should focus on the positive when he’s willing to try a new food and not repeatedly give him the message that he won’t eat a lot of foods.

    There is one small inconsistency between what you said the article said and what it actually says. I think it’s the wrong approach to not allow “junk” food, whether you offer it to them or whether it’s offered to them at school or a friend’s house or whatever. The people I’ve seen with the worst eating problems usually grew up in a home where there was never any candy, cookies, cake, or other “forbidden” food. Deprived of this kind of food, they never learned to eat it in moderation, so they go hog wild now.

    When you said: “Don’t offer them Pop Tarts, let them learn that eating healthy is the only option”, this is not the approach that the experts quoted in this article recommend. Instead, they said:


    • Ban unhealthy food – provide it in moderation.”

    What I have learned is that if you don’t make a big deal about any kind of food or types of food, kids will eat the “junk” in moderation and rarely as a substitute for healthy food. When my son was younger, I’d put out a snack tray with wholegrain crackers, cheese, pretzels, cereals, and usually cookies or something else sweet. He would graze on everything but never eat all of the “junk” that was offered. What I tried to teach him is to regulate his own consumption of junk food, because very soon I will not be able to control what he eats in any meaningful way (he’s in kindergarten).

    I think it’s a mistake to insist that kids eat “healthy” all the time. Encouraging your kids to eat healthy in the long run cannot be accomplished by controlling them so tightly that they’re not allowed to eat certain kinds of foods and/or simply eating healthy yourself.


  4. Braidwood Says:

    Good article. I also like Karla’s point. The two issues I feel strongly about are supplying food to kids on a regular basis and not forcing them to eat anything. I’m glad the article mentioned that.

  5. john anthony Says:

    What about the parent that only provides junk food in moderation verses food in moderation of healthy and junk

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