Why kids go through a picky eating phase and how to address

A parent may have confidence in knowing the nutritional value of most foods, but still have difficulty feeding their child. Any serious medical reasons aside, picky eating is a normal behaviour in a child.1, 2


Why are children picky eaters?

It has to do with a child’s growing cycle and they will need different amounts of food at different stages. Picky eating behaviour can last until they are much older. Picky eating can also be defined as your child having “neophobia” or a fear of new foods. When helping your child overcome food neophobia, make sure that you neither praise or punish them for it.1, 2


Praise – Praising can have an opposite effect where just because them eating makes you happy, they will develop a habit of overeating when full.1, 2


Rewards & Bribery – Using bribes can make a child develop an unhealthy association with food. Using other foods as rewards can develop emotional eating early on.1, 2


Restrictions & Punishments – if you are way too firm on your food eating rules, they may sneak or throw away food. This leads to early childhood obesity and eating disorders. Please consult with a child nutrition expert if you suspect your child’s food issue is beyond your control.1, 2


Have a Plan – Have a generally precise meal plan and schedule time for grocery shopping. These few extra steps will help you make it right.1, 2


Designate an eating location – Have a designated place to eat at home. It is important to make mealtimes as natural as possible with a general positive mood.1, 2


Stick to the routine – Children thrive on routine. A structured schedule that is easy to follow helps them develop good self-regulating skills, especially with food. It will reduce constant cravings for snacks and increase their willingness to tell you they are hungry at the right time.1, 2


Trust your child – The best thing you can do is set a good healthy eating habit. Use this picky eating stage as a teaching opportunity by swapping ingredients, changing cooking methods, and even planning a meal together.1, 2



  1. https://www.childrensnutrition.co.uk/full-blog/refuse-meals
  2. https://www.childrensnutrition.co.uk/members-club