University of Illinois Extension

When Your Grandchild Is a Picky Eater

Barbara Farner, Nutrition and Wellness Educator

Children are different in their needs and feelings about food. Some children eat just about everything while others don't seem to like anything. We want children to eat well and to develop good eating habits. If you have a picky eater at your house, try these tips to promote good eating habits:

  • Don't force children to eat if they don't seem hungry. A child who is going through a slow growth period may not be hungry.
  • Don't use food as a reward. A statement like, "Eat your vegetables or you won't get dessert," gives the impression that dessert is better than vegetables. Serve dessert as a regular part of the meal.
  • Keep two hours between snacks and meals. If children snack too close to mealtime, they may not be hungry.
  • Serve a variety of fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, cheese, cereals, breads and desserts.
  • Offer food choices. Help children to feel more independent and in control by offering them choices whenever possible.
  • Get children involved. They are more likely to try foods they have helped select, clean or prepare.
  • Set a good example. Children watch what you do. If you enjoy eating vegetables, they probably will too.
  • Reduce distractions. Turn off the radio and television while eating meals and snacks.
  • Make mealtime pleasant. It should be a time to share and visit with one another. Don't fight, argue, or scold at mealtime. Nagging, forcing or bribing a child is no help. A hungry child will eat.

Remember, it is our responsibility as adults to establish a pleasant meal environment and offer nutritious healthy food. It is the child's responsibility to decide which of the offered foods to eat and how much to eat.