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Picky Eating: End the Mayhem at Family Mealtime

March 14, 2017 by HealthyFamilies BC

Picky Eating: End the Mayhem at Family Mealtime

You make a large family meal and your kids only take two bites. You are always on the lookout for go-to meals that everyone can agree on. Sound familiar?

Whether you are dealing with picky eaters, rushed mealtime or other dinner table dilemmas, the good news is that taking control of the dinner hour is within your reach.

This year’s Nutrition Month campaign has a solution. Plug your problem into Dietitians of Canada’s three-step approach to Take the Fight out of Food. Read the scenario below and see how it works.

Kayla works full-time and prepares dinner for her family every night. She often struggles to get a meal on the table that everyone will enjoy. One child is quite picky, one doesn’t want to try new things, and no one agrees on the foods they like.

1.    Spot the problem: Kayla’s struggle is making family meals that everyone will enjoy.

2.    Get the facts: Kayla visits and searches “picky eaters.” She reads that parents and children have different “jobs” at mealtime –she’d never thought about it that way before. Her job is to decide which nourishing foods are served, when dinnertime is, and where they will eat. It’s then up to her children to decide what and how much to eat from what she offers.

Kayla is relieved to have support and guidance, which separates roles for herself and her kids. Now that she understands the role her children can play in the amount and type of food that is offered, she can stop telling them to “eat everything on their plate.” Plus, she learns not to let her kids decide where they want to eat, which is often in front of the TV instead of at the dinner table.

She reads more information about picky eating on Healthlink BC and learns that children take their nutrition cues from their parents, so she can set a good example by preparing and eating nourishing choices. If she rarely eats vegetables, Kayla now realizes her kids are less likely to enjoy them as well. She finds out that:

  • Children’s appetites can be erratic and that’s okay. The amount her children eat will vary each day depending on their appetite, fatigue, activity level and if they are having a growth spurt. It doesn’t always mean they are picky – it is normal.
  • Getting kids involved with grocery shopping, prepping and cooking food can help them become more interested in trying new things.
  • It can take 8-15 times (or more!) of trying a new food before a child will like it.
  • Kids may seem picky or may eat a small amount because they are simply not hungry at meal times.
  • It’s best to offer three meals and two or three snacks at regular times each day and to make sure kids aren’t grazing throughout the day. This will help the kids come to the table hungry since even a little milk, juice or few crackers can spoil a child’s appetite

3.    Seek support: Kayla feels better knowing that she’s not the only mom with picky eaters. She learns that up to 35 per cent of toddlers and preschoolers are described by their parents as picky eaters too. She finds some online support groups to talk to other parents about mealtime craziness. They share stories, swap recipes and inspire each other.

If you relate to Kayla’s situation, know that a registered dietitian can help too. You can call 8-1-1 or email a Healthlink BC dietitian to get free, expert advice or look for a dietitian in your area at Also try asking your local grocery store if they have staff dietitians who offer grocery store tours and cooking classes for kids.

Getting your kids more involved in shopping, prepping and cooking meals will make them more interested in family meals! Start by cooking these three kid-friendly options that they choose together:

Look for more recipes on the Cookspiration app, and choose one that is marked as “kid approved” or “kids choice.”

Author’s Bio: This blog post was adapted from Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month materials. Dietitians of Canada has led Nutrition Month Campaigns for more than 30 years. Learn more!

Related blogs

Taste Training: Raising Healthy Eaters
Easy Healthy Dinners for Busy School Nights

Recommended resources

Preventing Picky Eating in Toddlers
Making Family Mealtimes More Enjoyable



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