Is the child really a picky eater?

  • Transitioning from breastfeeding or formula to solid foods can be a challenging time for parents and toddlers. Overtime, most toddlers will consume enough food if given the chance.1-3 What parents might consider picky eating may be the result of the child asserting his or her autonomy.3

    • Parents need to know that children at this age tend to be neophobes—they don’t like trying new foods and children may not need to eat as much as parents expect them to3

    What to tell parents about transitioning children to solid foods1-3


    • Goal is to develop healthy eating habits
    • Always seat the child in a high chair and never leave the child alone while he or she is eating
    • Introduce one food at a time, and don’t introduce another food for 3 to 5 days
      • Begin with iron- and zinc-fortified cereals or meats (2 servings/day cereal or meat)
    • It may take as much as 10-15 tries before a child accepts a new food—never pressure the child into trying something new—keep the interaction neutral
    • Set regular times for meals and snacks (up to 3 per day) and limit feedings to no more than 20 minutes
    • Minimize distractions, especially television
    • Encourage exercise and play to stimulate the child’s appetite
    • Be role model—children tend to copy what family members do, so be sure to set an example by eating healthy foods, not watching television while eating, and getting exercise

    References: 1. American Academy Committee on Nutrition. In: Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. Pediatric Nutrition. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics;2014. 2. Schwartz S, Benuck I. Strategies and suggestions for a healthy toddler diet. Pediatr Ann. 2013;42:181-183. 3. Leung AK, Marchand V, Sauve RS; for Canadian Paediatric Society, Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee. The 'picky eater': The toddler or preschooler who does not eat. Paediatr Child Health. 2012;17:455-460.

  • Intended for U.S. Healthcare Professionals Only
  • ©2004, 2017 Mead Johnson & Company, LLC. All Rights Reserved.