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How Should I Deal With a Picky Eater?

My daughter would be happy eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. How can I get her to eat different foods?
– Carlene

It can be frustrating when kids want to eat the same thing every day — but it's not uncommon. Some kids get stuck on a favorite food while others complain they don't like certain foods, like vegetables.

Offer your daughter a variety of healthy foods. Encourage her to try the foods you serve, but don't force her to eat them. Set a good example by eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein.

Ask your daughter what fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods she is willing to try. Look for recipes with ingredients your kids like, and invite them to join you in the grocery shopping, cooking, and serving of foods.

Since your daughter likes peanut butter, let her put it on other foods, like apples or celery. Sometimes preparing foods differently, presenting foods in interesting ways, or using cookie cutters to cut food into fun shapes can make foods more appealing to picky eaters.

It's important not to let a child's pickiness become a source of mealtime tension. Don't cook special meals just for a picky eater, but do include something your daughter likes in every meal. Ask her to take at least two bites of what you made, but it's OK if she chooses not to eat more than that. And it might be tempting, but don't use food as a reward. Telling kids they can have a cookie if they eat their broccoli only reinforces the appeal of the cookie over the veggies.

If you have concerns about your child's nutrition, ask your doctor or a nutritionist for more advice on how to handle a picky eater.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: October 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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