What are the Best Tips for Picky Eaters?

Mary Elizabeth

Picky eaters is a term used to refer to people who have very strong food preferences that make many foods unacceptable to them. It is not used of people who have chosen a particular dietary regime for health or philosophical reasons. Rather, it refers to people who will not eat many foods that are within their acceptable range of foods. There are two kinds of tips with regard to picky eaters: those aimed at the picky eaters themselves, assuming that they are old enough to follow them, and those tips aimed at people — like parents —who prepare food for people who are picky about what they eat.

Children who are picky eaters will most likely grow out of it.
Children who are picky eaters will most likely grow out of it.

It is important for the picky eater to know that tastes can change over a lifetime. In addition, there are a number of foods that many children do not enjoy as children, but may relish when they grow older. These include pickles, mustard, and strong cheeses. Bitter foods, such as horseradish, radishes, and cured olives may also have more appeal to older diners. For those old enough to consume alcohol, it is also often found that the first taste of beer is not enjoyed, whereas the palate becomes accustomed to it after awhile.

Picky eaters may not like the taste or texture of a particular food.
Picky eaters may not like the taste or texture of a particular food.

There are several helpful tips that may benefit those who feed picky eaters. First, a young child who is picky may be going through a stage that will pass naturally. The fact that a child wishes to only eat cucumbers and hot dogs in a particular week does not mean that the following week will be the same, and it may be best to allow a repetitive diet for several days — which will have minimal consequences — rather than forcing the issue immediately.

Second, when a picky child objects to a food, it may be texture, rather than taste that is the problem. A child, however, may not have the vocabulary to express this relatively subtle distinction. The food served in a different preparation may not cause a problem at all. Also to be considered in this regard is seasoning: someone who doesn’t like sweet potatoes or yams in a savory casserole may be perfectly happy to eat them with brown sugar. Introducing a wide range of seasonings and sauces and letting the child choose may be another out.

A headstrong picky eater whose long-term choices are not providing full nutrition is a different case. If very limited preferences go on and on, it is important to have a child thoroughly checked by his or her pediatrician. If the child is well, a measured approach — requiring only a reasonable sized taste rather than clearing a plate — may make life easier for all concerned. Another idea is to provide two choices of, say, green vegetable. Giving up the cans and prepared foods and making one’s own is another tip that gives you more control over the nutrition for picky eaters in each and every serving. A handheld blender is another approach that can be beneficial: nobody is likely to know what’s in the pureed soup or the spaghetti sauce when it’s served if the particular ingredient(s) in question do not have a strong flavor.

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