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Published: May 15, 2023

10 Tips for Picky Eaters: How to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Children

Medically Written by:
Heather Marretta, RDN
Pediatric Dietitian
Updated On: 19 Oct 2023

Encouraging healthy eating habits in children is crucial for their overall growth and development. If you're looking for effective strategies to help your picky eater embrace nutritious foods, you've come to the right place. In this blog post, we will provide you with ten practical tips that have been tried and tested. Let's dive in!

1. Seek Professional Advice: If your child's picky eating habits persist and significantly affect their health and well-being, consider seeking guidance from a pediatric nutritionist professional. They can provide personalized advice and support tailored to your child's needs.

2. Set a Positive Example: Children often look up to their parents as role models. Show your child the importance of healthy eating by incorporating nutritious foods. Enjoy meals together as a family, and make sure to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins on your plate.

3. Involve Your Child in Meal Planning: Engaging your child in meal planning can make them feel empowered and more willing to try new foods. Let them assist you in choosing recipes, selecting ingredients at the grocery store, and even preparing meals. This involvement will pique their interest and make them more open to exploring different flavors.

4. Make Meals Fun: Make mealtimes exciting by adding an element of fun. Create visually appealing dishes by arranging fruits and vegetables in exciting shapes or designs. Use colorful plates and utensils to make the meal visually appealing. You can also turn mealtime into a game or challenge to engage your child's interest.

5. Gradual Exposure to New Foods: Gradually introduce new foods to avoid overwhelming your picky eater. Start by serving small portions alongside their favorite foods. Encourage them to touch and smell new foods as they work up to tasting them. Repeat exposure to new foods over time, as repeated exposure can increase acceptance.

6. Be Creative with Food Presentation: Children are more likely to try visually appealing foods. Use your creativity to present meals in a fun and exciting way. Create food art by arranging fruits and vegetables into shapes or making colorful salads and smoothies. Experiment with different textures and flavors to keep things exciting.

7. Offer Healthy Snack Options: Keep various healthy snack options readily available. Instead of reaching for sugary or processed snacks, offer sliced fruits, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, or vegetable sticks with hummus as nutritious alternatives. Having these options on hand makes it easier for your child to make healthier snack choices.

8. Make Mealtimes Stress-Free: Create a relaxed and positive environment during mealtimes. Avoid power struggles or using force to make your child eat. Instead, let them decide if they are ready to try a food, and how much they want to eat. Encourage conversation and enjoy mealtimes by sharing stories or playing soft background music.

9. Avoid Using Food as a Reward: Using Food as a reward can create an unhealthy relationship with eating. Instead, praise and reward your child for trying new foods or exhibiting positive eating behaviors. Offer non-food rewards like stickers, extra playtime, or a special outing to reinforce their progress and encourage healthy eating habits.

10. Get Creative with Recipes: Experiment with recipes that incorporate nutritious ingredients in a way your child may enjoy. Sneak vegetables into sauces, blend fruits into smoothies or make homemade whole-grain pizzas with their favorite toppings. By adding a twist to familiar dishes, you can make them healthier without compromising taste.


At New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute, we understand parents' struggles when dealing with picky eaters. Encouraging healthy eating habits in children can be challenging, but with these ten practical strategies, you can help your picky eater develop a love for nutritious foods. Remember to set a positive example by being a healthy eater yourself and involve your child in meal planning to make them feel empowered. Making meals fun and gradually exposing your child to new foods can also increase their willingness to try different options. 

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