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5 Truths About Picky Eaters from a Mom Who's Been There

Photograph by Twenty20

I tried. I really did. I followed every article and read every chapter of every parenting book on how to convince a picky eater to eat whatever you put in front of them. What I learned is this: A picky eater will be a picky eater for as long as they feel like it and there is really absolutely nothing I can do to change that. I tried everything for nearly two years with one of my kids and it just wasn't worth the struggle. Rather than try to change my picky eater, what I really I needed to do was change my reaction to his picky eating. Now we're both happier and meal time is a lot less stressful.

1. Picky eaters aren’t trying to be difficult.

I know it’s hard to believe, but I swear your kid is not deliberately trying to torture you. In fact, most kids want so badly to please their parents that they are truly distraught over their own picky eating habits. The screaming and crying isn’t just about not wanting to eat the food you offer—it’s about feeling like they’re disappointing you. So, cut them (and yourself) a little slack.

2. Picky eaters are not going to be easily convinced.

If you are intent on introducing something other than chicken nuggets and apple slices into your child’s diet, be prepared to have your patience tested in ways you’ve never imagined. It can take dozens of times of being presented with a particular food for a kid to even try it. And that still won’t guarantee they’ll eat more than a bite or like it.

3. Picky eaters will become less picky ... in time.

You know how it seems to take forever to drive to a place you’ve never been before, but the return trip home seems to go much faster? Parenting picky eaters is a lot like that. It can seem like it is taking forever for your picky eater to be interested in more than a couple of familiar foods, but I promise that one day you will look back and it won’t seem like it was very long at all.

4. Picky eaters need you to support them and try to understand.

Kids need positive reinforcement that their choices are OK. Yes, even if you don’t necessarily like the fact that you kid is eating PB&J for 365 consecutive days. It’s just food, not a judgment about you, your cooking or your tastes. When they ask—again—if they can have that peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, don’t grumble. Just say yes.

5. Picky eaters are probably getting what they need regardless of how picky their eating habits.

The most important aspect of raising a picky eater is making sure they’re getting their nutritional needs met. The short answer is: They probably are. But there are a lot of resources devoted to recipes that sneak vegetables and fruits into your kids’ favorite meals, from whole-wheat pasta macaroni and cheese to carrot muffins that taste as good as cupcakes. If you’re still worried that your child’s limited diet isn’t giving them everything they need, speak to your pediatrician about supplements.