Getting kids to eat more variety

Live Healthy



Does your child create chaos at mealtime? Refusing to eat or only eating certain foods? Thousands of parents struggle with picky eaters. What should you do and when is it time to get professional help?

Amir Similien absolutely loved pizza and pb and j, but something changed at the age of two.

“The only thing he would take was PediaSure. That’s all that he would want. That’s all he ate for about a year,” Amir’s mom, Tashara, explained.

His parents frantically tried everything to get him to eat. Nothing worked.

Amir’s dad, Schiller, continued, “We didn’t know where to go with it and we just felt confused.”

Roseanne Lesack, PhD, BCBA-D, ABPP, Clinic Director, Psychology, Nova Southeastern University, Mailman Segal Center for Human Development, Unicorn Children’s Foundation Clinic, told Ivanhoe, “I would say most children go through some sort of picky phase. Similar to how children at that stage also have a same shirt that they really like or dress that they love.”

Dr. Lesack  says the biggest and most common mistake parents make is giving up too easily.

Dr. Lesack shared, “Parents get in this cycle, oh they don’t like it so I’m not going to offer it, and then they don’t get the exposure, so they’re not going to like it.”

She says you should keep offering new foods, but start small. Really small.

Dr. Lesack continued, “Have them take literally the size of a bite of rice, just to get them over that fear of the unknown.”

If your child refuses to eat anything from an entire food group, or just one thing, it may be time to call in a professional.

Dr. Lesack stated, “If you really can count on your two hands the ten foods that your child will accept, that’s concerning.”

Amir is making progress at a pediatric feeding disorders clinic at Nova Southeastern University.

Schiller, Amir’s dad, said, “We’ve seen a change once he allowed her to put the spoon in his mouth.”

Amir’s parents are encouraged. He’s eating applesauce and yogurt. Now they worry about other parents facing the same dinner table disasters. 

“First and foremost, it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself and seek professional help,” said Tashara, Amir’s mom.

If a child is extremely picky, Dr. Lesack purées their food in the clinic. She says it’s harder for kids to spit out and they get some exposure to the flavor.