As a parent, dealing with a picky eater can feel like a never-ending battle. Between well-meaning (but misguided) advice from family and friends and conflicting tips online, it's easy to feel overwhelmed trying to determine the healthiest approach. Having raised my son through the picky eating phase myself, I understand the stress and frustration all too well. In this post, I hope to address some of the worst—and potentially harmful—picky eating advice out there while providing research-backed strategies that worked for my family. The goal is giving you realistic yet effective tools for supporting your child's nutrition and development in a way that doesn't cause additional anxiety or power struggles at the dinner table. Let's start by debunking a few myths.
Here are some of the worst picky eating tips I hear from parents:
“It’s just a phase, they will grow out of it!”
“Just keep offering them new food it and they’ll eventually eat it.”
“They will eat when they’re hungry.”
"Just withhold snacks until they eat their meal."
"Force them to try new foods."
"Only serve them what they like."
"Ignore it, they'll eventually eat when they're hungry."
The reasons why these statements can be harmful include:
Implies the idea that picky eating is simply just a phase
doesn’t address underlying issues for picky eating
these methods can backfire and lead to unhealthy habits
potential negative effects of forcing and pressuring children to eat certain foods
can limit a child’s exposure to different textures and flavours, hindering their development as adventurous eaters
It is clear that there is a lot of misinformation and ineffective advice out there when it comes to dealing with picky eaters. From bribing and forcing, to hiding vegetables in food, these tactics may provide short-term relief but do not address the root issue or promote healthy eating habits.
Instead, it is important to understand the underlying reasons for picky eating and use evidence-based strategies to help children overcome their aversions to certain foods. Remember, every child is unique and what works for one may not work for another. That's where seeking professional help can make all the difference.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a picky eater, I urge you to consider joining my Unfussy Eater Program where we provide specialised support and guidance in creating positive mealtime experiences for your child. Together, we can make mealtimes less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. So don't wait any longer, let's get started on your journey towards a happy and healthy eater!