6 top tips to help with your child’s picky eating

 In Kids health, Motherhood

This article was written by Stephanie Rea, a degree-qualified nutritionist, birth educator, early years consultant and owner of 360 Family Health.

Who dreads – absolutely dreads mealtimes?

I’m not talking ‘run out of ideas’ type quandary – or ‘not again – I feel like I live in the kitchen’ type feeling – I am talking soul-destroying ‘oh my goodness – here we go again – I would rather swim to Rottnest than go through another mealtime battle with my stubborn, picky, fussy, contrary, obstinate …..little angel…’

Of course we don’t believe all those attributes are real about our child, it’s just at mealtimes and, in fact, any contact with food-related occasions; birthdays, family events, picnics, holidays, our normally gorgeous child reverts to a tortured soul that will seemingly try anything to get out of sitting at the table, picking up their fork and just getting food in their mouth.

picky eater

Parents can become frustrated and distressed which can actually worsen the situation, with their child becoming inadvertently conditioned and trained to become fearful of mealtimes. It can also be frustrating for parents to hear from friends and health professionals “just keep putting it in front of them – they won’t starve themselves,” when to the parent it looks like they are!


Is picky eating normal?

Picky eating is a normal and usually transient stage of the preschool years. Up to 50% of children go through a patch in their development that includes cutting back on volume of food – usually characterised by not sitting still at the table for even short periods and only eating their food if it is served out of a mystical bowl!

During the early years, children are learning about autonomy and struggle when they have little control. We tend to decide when they can or can’t eat, what type of food they should eat, how much to eat and what to eat it on, leaving very few choices for them to make for themselves. All they really get to decide is whether they actually eat it!

It is no wonder that picky eating during this stage is common, however, there are some things you can do to help.


My 6 top tips for picky eating

1. Children generally need to see/ try a new food at least 10 times before they accept it – don’t give up too soon.
2. Provide opportunities for your child to self-feed, serve their own meals and get a bit messy exploring the food.
3. Allow your child to be part of the food preparation process, even if it’s washing up plastic bowls in soapy water.
4. Acknowledge that your child will not necessarily want to eat at every meal or snack time – trust them to self-regulate their intake.
5. If your child is big on drinking their food: milk/ juice/ smoothies be aware that as little as 600ml of milk a day for a toddler can blunt their appetite for solid food.
6. Avoid coercing or forcing your child to eat at all costs as it sets up a battle around mealtimes.

picky eating, perth nutritionist


How can you tell the difference between picky eating and a feeding problem?

While picky eating is normal, there is a proportion of children who have great difficulty with feeding times, shown in many studies to be consistently between 15%-20%.

Our primary instinct as a parent is to provide for and nourish our children  – it can be devastating for a mother to ‘fail’ at feeding her child – or worse be told by a healthcare professional that her little one is “failing to thrive.”


Signs of a feeding problem

Many times children who experience feeding problems have experienced challenges from the beginning;

  • Difficulty in latching on
  • Breast refusal
  • Experimenting with several formulas
  • Late introduction to solids
  • Difficulty with textures
  • Dependence on liquid calories…

…and by the time family foods come on the scene, the child is suspicious of new foods, dislikes a change in brands, has a poor appetite and a strong aversion to certain textures and smells.

Families often don’t recognise that it is the sensory experience of eating that some children struggle with. Often a good indicator is how they show up at the table. If it’s with reluctance, slumped in their seat and proximity to the food is completely unacceptable to the child, or placing a new food next to a preferred food leads to the refusal of both, this could indicate feeding issues that exist beyond common picky eating.

Some other signs of a possible feeding problem include difficulty swallowing, frequent coughing and spluttering, difficulty chewing and constipation.


What to do if you suspect your child has a feeding problem

If you’re very concerned always seek the advice of your GP, however, if you are unsure on whether your child’s feeding behaviour is normal please get in touch and I can offer an assessment and support. I offer free 15-minute phone consults to gauge whether your child would benefit from extra help with feeding and mealtimes. Please get in touch by email or phone: stephnutritionist@gmail.com, 0481 986 225.

If you would like more information on healthy mealtime strategies, I also facilitate informative workshops exploring the nature of eating and how children must acquire the necessary skills and modelling to complement their unique sensory characteristics. Follow me on Facebook for links to my current workshops.

I run a host of other milestone topics like; Toilet Training, Guiding Toddler Behaviour, and Introducing Solids.



360 family health, picky eatingStephanie has a degree in Nutrition and Biology from Oxford Brookes University. She spent 10 years as an antenatal teacher before working for Ngala and Communicare in the realm of education and family support. She runs 360 Family Health, providing bespoke health and wellbeing workshops.

With a particular interest in nutritional medicine, gut flora and the gut-brain axis, family of origin and attachment theory, Stephanie runs workshops that take a holistic approach by addressing the many elements in our lives that impact on everyday wellness. She believes that by increasing our individual knowledge we can make changes to move our health and quality of life in the right direction.

This is a sponsored post by 360 Family Health.



[activecampaign form=3]
Recent Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search

nature activities for toddlers, nature play ideasresilience