An image of an arrow icon

Guide to Managing Picky Eaters: Expert Advice from a Pediatric Nutritionist

Expert advice from a pediatric nutritionist on managing picky eaters. Learn strategies for introducing new foods, understanding the causes of picky eating, and finding nutritious meals for your child. Understand when to seek professional help and the benefits of working with a pediatric nutritionist.

Understanding Picky Eaters

Feeding your child can be one of the most difficult and rewarding parts of parenting. Creating a healthy relationship with food, and getting proper nutrition for growth and development are vital parts of a child’s physical and mental health. But when you find yourself dreading meals, and there are battles around food, it may be time to seek help. 

Picky Toddler Eating

What is a Picky Eater?

Picky eating is a normal developmental stage for toddlers through preschool age. While most children will grow out of this stage and broaden their food horizons over time, some seem to have more difficulty. In general, picky eating is having a limited amount of accepted foods, missing one or more food groups, and resistance to trying new foods. Generally speaking, kids tend to prefer carbohydrates, fruits, and dairy during this phase. 

Can You Prevent Picky Eating?

There are things you can do at home to prevent picky eating. 


  1. Exposing children to all kinds of food is important. It’s tempting with a busy life to offer their favorite foods on repeat to avoid the mealtime battles, but the more they are served a variety of food the better! 

Limit Snack Times:

  1. Make sure kids come to the table hungry. This means resisting the “pre-dinner” snacks, ideally kids should have 2-3 hours between their meals and snacks. Also, limiting milk and juice between meals as those can fill up small toddler bellies. 

Remain Patient

  1. Do not pressure or force your child to eat food. If they are not interested in eating the item, remain neutral about it and offer it again in a few days. Take things one meal at a time, it can take up to 20 exposures to a food before picky kids are ready to eat an item. 

Exploring the Causes of Picky Eating Habits

Family unpacking groceries together

What Causes Picky Eating?

“They ate everything as a baby!” Infants triple their birth weight in the first year of life, but this growth rate slows in their second year, making it seem that they may be eating less. Toddlers also learn that they are separate beings from their parents, and their favorite word is “No!”. While we want to foster strong and independent humans, this is part of the development of picky eating. There is also an evolutionary theory, that as toddlers wandered off from their families, they became wary of new or different foods so as to not eat poisonous foods in the wild. Children who have sensory differences or prefer structure and routine may be overwhelmed by sudden changes to their food presentation or eating environment. 

How Long Does Picky Eating Last?

Picky eating typically lasts until Preschool/School age. As children start to eat foods more and more with peers, and are exposed to influence from others outside of their home such as teachers and community leaders, they tend to start expanding their food horizons. 

Strategies for Dealing with Picky Eaters

Mother and daughter eating lunch together

Healthy Foods for Picky Eaters

Fiber, Iron, Calcium and Vitamin D are some common nutrients that picky eaters fall short on. Fiber comes from whole grains, beans/nuts/seeds, and fruits and vegetables. Iron rich foods such as dark leafy greens and meats can be challenging for kids. Calcium and Vitamin D are found in dairy products as well as greens, soy, and some fish. There are fortified foods such as cereals that can be helpful for picky eaters to fill in these nutrient gaps. Consult with your Registered Dietitian if you think vitamin supplementation may be needed as well. 

Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters

A simple tip for picky eaters is to offer at least two of the major food groups at each meal and snack. Add a serving of fruit or yogurt along with their favorite goldfish snack. Offer broccoli with chicken nuggets. By combining food groups (even if they don’t eat it!) they are 1) getting more exposure to different foods and 2) if they do eat it, balancing key nutrients in their diet. 

Introducing New Foods to a Picky Eater

When introducing new foods to a picky eater, it's crucial to adopt a patient and gradual approach. Encourage exploration by involving the child in the meal preparation process, such as grocery shopping or simple cooking tasks, to increase their familiarity and curiosity with different foods. Offer foods in various forms, textures, and presentations to accommodate sensory preferences and gradually expose the child to new tastes and textures over time.

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

Young boy eating lunch out of lunch box

What to Make for Lunch for Picky Eaters?

Bento box lunches are great for picky eaters, they keep all the food separated for those who do not like touching food items. Pack 1-2 preferred foods that you feel they eat most of the time, and you can add a tiny portion of a “not so favorite food”. For example,  2 thin slices of cucumber or a cube of cooked chicken. Sun butter is a great alternative for those who cannot have peanuts in school. Pinwheels (wraps cut into slices) are a fun way to serve smaller portions to limit food waste. Serving hummus along with favorite crackers and not-so-favorite veggies is another great option. 

When Should I Be Worried About Picky Eating?

If you find yourself dreading meals, worried about your child meeting their nutritional needs, or feel your child has more “bad” days than “good”, it may be time to reach out for help. A Registered Dietitian can provide insight into your child’s eating habits and nutritional needs. Having that reassurance can be very empowering! A Registered Dietitian can also recommend vitamin/mineral supplements if there is an area your child is lacking in. They provide tips to help reduce meal time battles, and foster a sense of curiosity for food with your child, in a way that works best for your family. 

Extreme Picky Eating Behavior

Extreme picky eating, often observed in young children and toddlers, presents unique challenges that can greatly impact their development. Extreme picky eating, also known as selective eating disorder or avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), involves an exceptionally limited range of accepted foods. Toddlers may exhibit strong aversions or anxiety towards certain textures, tastes, or colors of food. In these cases seeking help from a dietitian or health care provider experienced in working with young children to develop healthy eating behaviors is essential.

Seeking Professional Guidance for Picky Eating Behaviors

Benefits of Working with a Pediatric Nutritionist

A Pediatric Nutritionist will ask about your family, what meals look like, and what your specific concerns are to best provide tips that are realistic for you. They may recommend supplements, specific foods, or changes to your meal and snack routine. They will work with you to gradually develop your child's food acceptance, address sensory sensitivities, and promote a positive mealtime environment conducive to healthy eating habits.

What to Look for in a Pediatric Nutritionist

When choosing a Pediatric Nutritionist, look for someone both with experience in the field and empathy. As a parent of a picky eater, it can sometimes feel that you have done something wrong, which is not the case. Working with a Pediatric Nutritionist that understands your concerns and goals is key. 

Picky Eating is a normal stage in childhood development, but that does not diminish when or if you have concerns about your child’s eating habits. Because this is a time of rapid growth and brain development, it is best to reach out to a Pediatric Dietitian to ensure your child’s nutritional needs are being met. If your child is missing whole food groups from their diet, family tension is high around food, or your child has a large emotional reaction to new foods it may be time to seek guidance. Pediatric Dietitians strive to ensure their clients are meeting their nutritional needs all while promoting a healthy relationship with food. 

Find the Best Pediatric Nutritionists
Find the right nutritionist to support you in building healthy eating habits with your child.
Get Match with a Nutritionist!
Enjoy a 2 week RISK FREE trial.
Find your personal nutrition coach today.
Start your 2 week RISK-FREE TRIAL now!
Find your dietitian
Start your 2 week RISK-FREE TRIAL now!

About the author

Rose Britt, RD, CNSC
Rose is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with over 13 years of counseling experience. Rose has a B.S. in Dietetics from Michigan State University and is also a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC). Rose found her passion for pediatrics at a Rehabilitation Hospital where her younger brother recovered from major spinal cord surgery. She now specializes fully in working with clients who have Pediatric Feeding Disorders and ARFID, as well as those looking to reduce feeding and mealtime battles.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Don’t worry, no spam or rubbish.
Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while subscribing.

Top Nutrition Coaching’s Annual Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship

Scholarship Award: $500
The Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship is a recurring scholarship that’s open to all students of military families, both past and present. The next deadline to apply is April 1, and winners will be announced on April 30.
Learn More

About the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship

Scholarship award available for both college and high school students
Military families embody resilience, strength, and unwavering support for their loved ones in uniform. There are many overlooked sacrifices they make that should be recognized and rewarded. Military families endure extended deployments, adjust to new environments, and face uncertainty on a frequent basis. The children of military families often adapt to new schools and environments, embodying the values of adaptability and perseverance, and experience the emotional toll of their loved one being deployed in dangerous situations.

The Heroes' Legacy Scholarship is a tribute to the extraordinary dedication and sacrifice of military families who stand alongside their loved ones in service to our country. We appreciate the challenges that military families endure while a parent or guardian serves in the armed forces, and we want to lend our support to these remarkable individuals in their pursuit of higher education.

We recognize that pursuing higher education can be an additional burden on military families already facing unique challenges, and this scholarship is our way of giving back to these dedicated families and honoring their sacrifices.
Scholarship details:
To qualify for this scholarship, please review the following eligibility criteria carefully. Ensure you meet these requirements prior to submitting your application.
Amount: $500
Application deadline: April 1
Winner Announcement Date: April 30
Recurring: Annually
Scholarships Awarded
Total Awards
Eligibility requirements:
To qualify for this scholarship, please carefully review the following eligibility criteria. Ensure you meet these requirements prior to submitting your application.
Student of a military family (at least one parent has served in the U.S. military at some point)
All high school seniors, undergraduate and graduate students
Applicant must be a current U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident
How to Apply:
You can apply for this scholarship on the scholarship platform. Follow the directions and submit your application for the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship, along with a short essay answering the following prompt:
Tell us about your experience as the child of a parent in the military
Scholarship frequently asked questions:
When is the scholarship deadline?
The application will be open through April 1.
What is the scholarship prize?
The scholarship award is $500.
When will the winner be chosen and notified?
Prior to the announcement date, we may contact finalists with additional questions about their application. Recipients will be chosen based on the merit of their application. 
How will the scholarship be paid?
The prize check will be sent to the scholarship winner’s college institution in their name and in the name of their institution (depending on the school’s requirements).
Is this a recurring scholarship?
Yes, the Heroes’ Legacy Scholarship is an annual scholarship.
How will my scholarship application be verified?
Before we award the scholarship, the winner will be required to verify their academic enrollment status by providing a copy of their most recent transcript.
How can I get in touch with questions?
If you have any questions about this scholarship, just email and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.
How will my application information be used?
Top Nutrition Coaching manages this scholarship with the support of the scholarship platform. takes student confidentiality and privacy incredibly seriously. Please refer to the application page on for full details.

Previous Top Nutrition Coaching Scholarship Winners

Mayci H.
October 12, 2022
Jordan C.
December 20, 2022
Bethanie S.
December 27, 2022
Romeo G.
February 8, 2023
Ian C.
December 28, 2022
Kristopher W.
December 14, 2022
About Top Nutrition Coaching
Top Nutrition Coaching is dedicated to offering a sustainable pathway toward healing and achieving a balanced life. Our team of experienced nutritionists takes a comprehensive approach to create tailored plans for each individual, considering various aspects, including mindset, sleep, diet, activity level, and lifestyle. We are committed to helping our clients thrive in the truest sense of the word, fostering lasting well-being and growth.
Apply Now
Hire The Right Nutritionist For You