Parenting Tips for Transforming Picky Eaters

Published by Bonnie on

I spoke with yet another parent about their picky eater and their growing digestion problems. In fact, I often speak with parents of picky eaters, because these kids commonly have health issues that simply don’t go away.

The only way to turn around your picky eater’s health challenges, is to first turn around their eating habits. Transforming picky eaters is no small task, I assure you.

Is it worth the challenge to get your child to eat healthier?
You bet!
Is it worth the challenge to help your child try new foods?
No doubt! Lifelong benefits await!

Eating a variety of healthy foods is the key to maintaining healthy immune and digestive systems.

So, here are some effective parenting tips to help you make these transformative changes!

1. Turn Off The TV.

If your child is used to eating in front of a screen, then this is your first step toward change. It is much easier to enforce and encourage good eating habits when you have your kids eat at the table. There should be a place in your home that is the main eating area—a dining table, a breakfast area, etc. Eating in front of a screen encourages what is called “mindless eating.” Mindless eating easily leads to overeating and poor social habits.

2. Set The Table.

A beautiful table setting

It has been scientifically proven by food marketers that food tastes better to the consumer when served on real plates in a nice environment—and even with a little candlelight. Aesthetics and ambience count for a lot—especially when introducing new foods. You want to create an enjoyable eating experience for your child as often as you can.

3. Eat Together.

(…with no screens attached)
In today’s busy culture, I know that carving out time to eat a meal with your family each day can be tough. However, if you really want to enforce changes in your child’s eating habits, this step is a must.

So many eating habits are caught and not taught. Let your kids see you enjoying the meal with them. A healthy attitude toward food is that it is something we do to enjoy the company around us. Eating is a social event—not something we do just to stuff in calories. When you sit down to eat, leave your cell phones in your bags and give each other your undivided attention. You need to model this for your kids.

4. Establish New Ground Rules.

Most parents I’ve talked to about their picky eater admit that at some point in the past, they started allowing their child to decide what they were going to eat. Usually this happens somewhere in the toddler phase where kids begin to exert some independence. Though this pattern can begin quite

transforming picky eaters ground rules
Establish new ground rules for good eating and write them down!

innocently, if left to continue, it leads to a child whose only choices are foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

So, now, you as the parent have to take back that important ground that you lost and start calling the shots again. This is going to be an all-out test of your perseverance, commitment, and patience!

Figure out what your new ground rules will be for your child’s eating behaviors. Maybe you’ll start with just one or two. That may be all you can do at the beginning.

These will certainly vary depending on your child’s current age and maturity. You may even want to write them down somewhere so that you don’t forget your end goal.

5. Get On The Same Page.

If you are not a single parent, then you and your spouse must get on the same page when it comes to all these changes. You have to show a united front or you will be battling alone and in utter futility. (This won’t be good on your marriage either.) You and your spouse need to sit down and agree on a plan of action, what the ground rules will be, what the consequences will be, and how to move forward.

black decorative line

Then, communicate these changes clearly with your child. If they’re old enough, explain why changes are necessary. Give them the big picture. Don’t surprise them with it.

Be as consistent as possible in your chosen course of action. It will be tough at first—a battle of the wills! Your child may even go to bed hungry a few times. (No, you are not a bad parent if this happens. It becomes your child’s choice.)

Stand your ground, and remember the end goal—to teach them healthy eating habits before they leave your nest. You are setting them up for a lifestyle of good health and a healthy perspective on the purpose of food and eating well. I wish you good luck!

Questions or Comments?

I’d be happy to give personal feedback! Please comment below.

feature-image Photo Credit: JMalabanan Flickr via Compfight cc


Bonnie Hershey currently serves as a business and nutrition coach with their business, Hershey Holistic Health. She holds an undergrad degree in education, and a certification in Practical Nutrition from the Northwest Academy of Practical Nutrition. She has over 20 years of leadership experience and enjoys encouraging others in their personal growth.


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