Dealing with a Picky Eater at Home

Picky eaters have been a source of frustration for parents everywhere for, well, ever!  If you’re currently struggling with a picky toddler, Mama, remember that you’re not alone–most children experience a picky phase, if not their entire childhood.  It’s a pretty normal part of being a toddler! However, when it’s your Bitsy, it can make mealtime feel impossible — we’ve got the scoop to make things a little easier!

Types of Picky Eaters

Yes, we’re serious — there are actually several types of picky eaters, and understanding where your Bitsy falls is necessary to successfully get them eating better foods!  Fertile Brains breaks it down like this:

Sensory Dependent Eaters: These types of picky eaters decide whether their food is edible based on texture.  They may refuse to eat food that’s slimy, mushy, overly crunchy, etc.

Preferential Eaters:  These picky eaters refuse to eat new foods, and instead focus on maintaining their favorite foods in a rotation.

General Perfectionists: With this eater, their foods need to be very segregated and can’t touch.  This can extend to foods that are a combination of different foods, further narrowing down what they’re willing to eat.  This type of eater is most likely to continue their habits into adulthood.

Behavioral Responder Eaters:  These eaters need their food prepared a certain way — think needing the crust cut off their sandwiches!

Understanding the type of picky eater your child is will help you diagnose the best way to fix the behavior!  For a sensory dependent eater, the trick is to convert “bad”-textured food into “good” textures — blend fruits into smoothies, puree certain foods and disguise them in dishes, etc.  For a preferential eater, sneaking food doesn’t work so well. Instead, they require some patience and may need up to 10 different exposures with a food before they decide it’s no longer “too new”.  A general perfectionist may just need to keep their foods separated. Work with them and stay patient when it comes to food that must be mixed. Behavioral responders may just need you to appeal to their wishes with shapes and specifications, as it can make introducing new food much easier!  As they grow older, you can help them phase out of this.

 

How to “Fix” It

There is no sure way to fix a picky eater, but there can be ways to make it easier and less frustrating for everyone involved!

Start small.  Many parents will often cause issues just from miscalculating portion size!  When your Bitsy sees a large helping of a new or “gross” food on their plate, they’re immediately unwilling to negotiate.  Instead, try one or two pieces of the new food. For each piece they eat, offer them a bite of a food they love! As you gain traction with this, you can add to the portion size, and start taking away the “treat” food.

Stick with it.  Giving up will spell failure for both you and your toddler.  By maintaining new foods as part of their routine, you’re creating better habits for Bitsy!  If they sense that you’ll give up, the push back will become much stronger.

Keep your cool.  Training a picky toddler to eat better takes a lot of patience and control — when you lose your temper, it will ruin any progress you’ve made with Bitsy.  We know how hard it is, Mama, but you’ve got this!

Scale back on snacks.  If your Bitsy is a big fan of snacks and flavored drinks throughout the day, that can hinder their progress at meals!  They’re less hungry, meaning they feel like they have more of a say at mealtime. Cutting back will let them know that the food they’re given is the food they need to eat!

Get sneaky.  Using cooking techniques, sneak greens, proteins, and other healthy nutrients into Bitsy’s food!  This can be done in smoothies, sauces, etc. You can see some of our ideas here.

Celebrate successes.  If Bitsy eats a full meal or tries a new food, celebrate it!  That can be a cookie or sweet for dessert, praise, whatever makes your toddler feel good!

 

The biggest thing you can do is just hang in there, Mama!  Most toddlers phase out of pickiness on their own, and you can nudge them along the way to make the process a little quicker!  Just always remember, it’s only temporary!