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Getting picky eaters to eat healthy, balanced meals

Discover why some children only eat certain foods

Think about the last time your child refused to eat a certain food, or rejected the whole meal. Did they share why they were reluctant to eat? Here’s something to chew on: our eating preferences aren't just a matter of taste, but also involve our unique personality hardwiring.

For example, some children might really look forward to eating out with their family at their go-to restaurant. But what happens if their favourite spot is closed? Children like this may feel very reluctant to consider other options, and they might even feel uneasy at the thought of going somewhere new. Does this sound familiar?

If your child is selective about their food preferences too, here’s why: they may be wired to stick to familiar foods that bring them comfort and joy.

Alternately, there are children who may jump at the chance to try new foods and unfamiliar cuisines. They usually feel excited and enthusiastic about trying something new! These children may feel bored or even glum when faced with the same snacks or foods over and over again.

These children are happy when they have a steady stream of new foods to try, but eating the same foods day in and day out might negatively impact their mood and energy. Does this sound more like your child?

Try it out: for kids who have one or two

comfort foods

If your child prefers not to stray from their go-to foods, try talking about the types of food that do bring them comfort.

Here’s one way to approach the topic: “I bet if we explore some delicious foods you haven’t tried before, you might discover some new comfort foods.”

Then, help your child make the connection between food that’s familiar to them and food they haven’t tried before.

For example, if your child loves apples, perhaps you can suggest they try pears, as the two fruits are not jarringly different — instead of suggesting your child goes from apples to oranges.

Try it out: for kids who need more variety in

their meals

Children who happily welcome new food experiences may benefit from conversations about family meals and routines. Consider saying something like:

“Help me understand how it feels to have too much of the same kind of food. How long does it take before you get frustrated by eating the same type of food every day?”

Then, find out which foodie experiences your child would find most exciting: is it trying different cuisines from different countries? Or maybe having a new type of snack to try every week?

A change of scenery might also positively affect their eating experience, so consider switching up locations every now and then. For example, you could both enjoy a picnic lunch at a park instead of the usual dining table setup.

Lastly, try creating enough opportunities for your child to try new foods at intervals that work for your schedule as well as your child’s instinctive preferences. You may even discover some new favourite foods for yourself along the way!

Start a conversation with your child

What are some of the different eating habits that you’ve observed (even among adults) at social gatherings?

  • What were some foods that you preferred to avoid when you were a child?

  • As a child, what were some favourite foods that you didn’t want to give up? What do you think your child’s favourite ‘non-negotiable’ foods might be?

  • Do you and your child have any foods in common that you thoroughly enjoy or dislike?


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