How to Crack the Code on Picky Eaters & Create Veggie Lovers

Our data on childhood eating habits from the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) could shed some light

Picky eating is a major worry for many parents. You finally get to the end of the day, and dinner time becomes a battlefield! Parents often worry: Are my kids eating enough? Are they getting the right nutrition? When will they outgrow this? We shared our data on childhood eating habits from the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) in a new study published in the scientific journal Appetite to take a look at how 1–4 year olds are eating.

We found that picky eaters are more likely to refuse new foods, eat only their favorite foods, and resist eating specific textures. When looking at their overall food choices, picky eaters had similar diets to non-picky eaters. However, picky eaters ate fewer vegetables (especially raw vegetables), meats, and other protein sources. They also ate fewer calories from mixed dishes. Researchers concluded that food texture is a key obstacle for picky eaters.

Parents of picky eaters give their children more chances to try a new food before deciding that their child does not like it. Great persistence, parents! Research says that we may need to introduce a new food at least nine times before deciding if the child likes it. Persistence is especially important for vegetables, which continue to be a gap for children of all ages. In fact, another new study, published by authors at the Nestlé Research Center, found some promising approaches to getting our kids to accept and continue eating vegetables.

Based on this new research, here are some tips for parents:

  • Breast is best. Research has linked breastfeeding to greater vegetable eating by young children. Try varying your own diet to expose your child to many different tastes during infancy.
  • When introducing new foods for the first time, vary kids’ vegetables to help increase acceptance.Focus on a variety of textures and types. Try both raw and cooked vegetables with different colors, shapes, and tastes.
  • Be patient and persistent. Introduce a new food at least nine times before deciding if your child likes or dislikes the food.
  • Don’t fret. Picky eaters are eating similar amounts of foods as non-picky eaters, so hang in there!