Tips to Help Your Picky Eater

Baby in highchair reacts negatively to baby food.

Good nutrition is important for young children to help them grow healthy and strong. Follow these tips to help your picky eater try new foods.

Children may not like every food you give them on the first try. Give them a chance to try foods again and again, even if they don’t like them at first. Children may need to try some foods many times before they like them.

Approaches to Try

  • Try eating the food first to show them you like it. Then, let them try it.
  • Make funny faces with the foods on their plate. It may help them get excited to eat it.
  • Give them a choice of different foods to try. Let them decide which one to try today.
  • Serve new foods with foods you know they like.
  • Try freezing small bites of leftover foods. You can use these later and avoid throwing food away.
  • Wait a couple of days before offering the food again. It can take more than 10 times before your child likes it.

As children get older, they may start refusing foods they used to like or start showing signs of being a picky eater. Favoring just a couple of foods or not wanting foods to touch each other on the plate are normal behaviors. These behaviors often go away by the time the child is about 5 years old.

Try a Variety of Tastes and Textures

Giving your child foods with a variety of different tastes and textures can help them learn to accept and like a variety of foods. You can let your child try a variety of textures including:

  • Smooth (strained or pureed).
  • Mashed or lumpy.
  • Finely chopped or ground.

Start out with smooth or mashed foods first and then move towards finely chopped or ground foods as they get older. This can help your child develop chewing skills, as well as fine motor skills like pinching and picking up food with their fingers. Be sure to offer foods in the right size, consistency, and shape for your child’s age and development to help prevent choking.

Keep It Fun!

Try these playful activity cards to keep your picky eater engaged and open to new tastes and textures.

Playful activities for picky eaters
Eye spy: Keep fruits and vegetables at thier eye level.

Keep fresh fruit on the kitchen counter or someplace where your child can see it as a reminder for a healthy snack.

Five senses: Ask them how the new fruit or vegetable looks, feels, smells, sounds and tastes.

Allow kids to touch and smell their food to spark interest and improve comfort with new foods during meal time.

Funny face: Arrange fruits and vegetables into a funny face.

Make funny faces with the foods on your child’s plate. It might help your child get excited to eat it.

Rainbow: Make a rainbow with fruits and vegetables

Offer a rainbow of colors with different fruits and vegetables for snacks and meals.

Tie dye: Add fruit for a little flavorand color in the water

Serve water instead of sugary drinks such as soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. You can add berries or slices of lemons, limes, or cucumbers to give the water more color and flavor.

Tiny chef: let the wash and sort fruits and vegetables

Involve kids in making healthy snacks and meals. Even the youngest can help by washing and sorting foods. Encourage your child to use 3 of their 5 senses (smell, touch, taste) as you prepare food. Prepare the same fruit or vegetable in different ways.

Developed with the CDC Foundation.

For More Information
Connect with Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity