How To Prevent A Picky Eater?

Website for Tyson Chicken Nuggets with Nutrition Facts Label but without an Ingredients List

As a dietitian, I hear time and time again, “my child is such a picky eater!! I can’t get him/her to eat anything but chicken nuggets, french fries, and peanut butter.” 

Tyson, being the “genius” advertizers that they are, understand that children in this country are growing up on fried foods like chicken nuggets and thought: “Hey, let’s appeal to the new “natural” health craze and direct our commercial toward frustrated parents with picky children. We can make them think OUR chicken nuggets are the healthier choice!!”

When I first saw this commercial, I was pretty outraged. What kind of message are they sending? As one reader pointed out, they show the plate with ALL the grapes uneaten. Really?

The most basic reason why a child is a picky eater is because the parent gets tired of throwing away uneaten food and listening to complaints like the ones demonstrated in the commercial, so mom becomes a short order cook, catering to the child’s every last request. I know first hand the frustrations with a picky eater because I grew up with an older brother who would not eat/try ANYTHING! What did my mom do? She made him a hot dog or hamburger, while the rest of us ate what my mom prepared. Today? My brother is STILL the pickiest eater you will ever meet and he NEVER tries anything new. A vegetable? Yea right…he has never eaten a salad in his life. Do you honestly want your child to be this picky as an adult?

How can parents prevent or correct this picky behavior? For one thing, don’t fall for the gimmicks of TV advertising, buying ”healthier” versions of typical “junk” food; this is not going to correct the problem.

This photo makes me sad.

Instead, I want you to offer your child a variety of foods DAILY! It can take up to 30 tries before a child will actually develop a taste for a new food. As a parent, you have to keep ENCOURAGING them!!  It is ridiculous to think that a 2 year old who “hates” broccoli will ALWAYS have an aversion to it! They are TWO; what do they know other than they don’t like the color green or they think a particular texture is “weird.” This absolutely doesn’t mean they won’t eventually realize those little trees taste pretty darn good! Keep trying and don’t give up.

“But he won’t eat anything…I don’t want him to starve!”

Are they really so GREEEEEEAT!!!???

KIDS WON’T LET THEMSELVES STARVE! I promise! Maybe there will be a night or two where they go to bed without dinner, but I promise they will get up and eat breakfast in the morning. If your child does not eat dinner and then asks for ice cream or cereal 2 hours later…present that old dinner plate and say,”this is what you get.” No dice? Sorry. That’s all there is. It’s still love…just a tad bit tougher.

Start em young!

We  have to stop letting the food industry sell our kids short. As a parent, if you are making healthy choices for yourself, then the same should go for your child; avoid the drive-thru, the kids’ menu, and products with more advertising than nutritional value and you will be taking steps in the right direction. If a tot grows up exposed a wide array of foods, their palate will grow to appreciate the many different tastes and textures of lots of fresh, whole foods. Let’s pave the way for a less picky path!

QUESTION: What are YOUR thoughts!?


36 comments to How To Prevent A Picky Eater?

  • Nelli

    Hi There, I am having a lot of problem with my 2 and a half year old son. who for the past year has been refusing everything i make for him. He started of really well, eating evrything I give him. I was making all his food since he was weaned, and then in emergencies he wouldn`t eat jar baby food. But last spring he just refused everything, he would only have spread cheese sandwiches for weeks, and after that he wouldn`t eat any vegetables. The only way i manage to give him any fruit is by making a multi fruit smoothie which he happily drinks. But he is so afraid to try the same fruits as a fruit.

    He was eating mash potatoe and sweet potatoes mashed but now he sees a spoon or fork and goes mad screaming. We tried the shopping together and he picks up stuff and will not ever try it. He still eats baby muesli, won`t even try the other cereals (i don`t push there as the muesli has dried fruit in it so i know it is good for him). I have been trying to hide veg in special buckwheat and veg nuggets , it has to be really smooth, or he won`t eat it. He will only eat them if they look like nuggets… I even tried making some chichen and broccoli shapes (he loves shapes), but he only had a bite of the moon and left it. I do admit i get really stressed and just give in… But i know that not giving in doesn`t work for him, he will starve himself, I took him abroad on holiday for 6 weeks. And as they didn`t have all the things he is used to he lived on yogurt and juice… Didn`t even show any interest in trying watermelon, peaches or anything… This child won`t even eat spaghetti… i know all kids I know love it. I am desperate, I don`t know what to do, I feel guilty when we eat well and he eats ready made junk food… Forgot to mention that my son doesn`t eat candy, chocolate or cookies like other children.

  • nicole

    I have a quessation. I have a 5 yr old stepdaughter who has been given nothing but chicken nuggets, peanut butter, and fish sticks since she started eating, I have only been in her life the last year and a half, I have tried everything I know to try to get her to eat more food but she screams and cries liike shes been hit by a car. I dont know what to do and was hoping someone could give me some advice. My 2 kids eat everything including spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, etc.. Im lost with her..

  • [...] variety and they will learn to love healthy foods! I already wrote a post entitled, “How To Prevent a Picky Eater,” if you want to check that out [...]

  • Shannon

    I love it and totally agree. The only time my 5 get to special order what they want is when we eat out. We have a rule that you don’t have to eat it all, and you don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it. You have to try it every time, once doesn’t get it. They have found many different foods that they like that they really didn’t want to even try. Ethan and Libby (4 and 2) know that they aren’t going to get down from the table until they try it. In the beginning it was a true test of parents versus kids. We didn’t back down and it didn’t take long to get them to realize that no matter the size of the tantrum, it was easiest to just try the new food. I have also found that the older 3 are excited to point out recipes to try.

  • I LOVE this post! I had the identical reaction when you posted the Tyson commercial earlier this week. When I was growing up, my mom made one dinner and we all sat down and ate it together. No one got special dinner options–mom wasn’t a short order cook :) We didn’t always like it (and I’m sure she had to listen to plenty of complaining!), but it was all we knew, so we never expected a second option.

  • Oh, I read this post…lol…silly me…GREAT one though ;-) forgot to say I love the tips, I think kids will eat what we give them! Don’t let them have McDonalds, and crappy fake chicken and they won’t miss it!

  • I totally agree!! I kind of wish my parents had pushed me to try more foods when I was younger. I was a super picky eater, but I actually liked healthier foods, so that’s probably why they didn’t push it!

  • My mother would only make one meal and we’d eat it or nothing else except for a few of our little quirks. My sister would not eat cheese (and still doesn’t) so my mother would try to leave a cheese free portion for her or make it easy to pick off. And I’ve never liked beef so my mom would always have another protein source for me. I think I’m one of the few kids who didn’t like hamburgers but loved broccoli!

  • My Man is SO picky. It’s funny though because everything he hates his Dad hates too.. And his Grandpa.. I wonder where it came from?! haha

  • Wow . . . I thought you were talking about my brother there for a second. He has never in his life eaten a salad either. He says theyre for women.
    My mom STILL cooks him whatever he wants for dinner. He’s 24 years old.

  • Well said Erin! This was a great post and I use what you said in the above post almost all the time. Parents love hearing these tips because they actually work.

  • Such a great post. I couldn’t agree with you more on each and every point. I always tell parents to try, try again, and to keep trying to get kids to love fruits and veggies. Eventually, they will find some that they like. Just the other day my soon-to-be niece tried a pomegranate against her will. She loved it! I also tell parents to not give in to their kids, and if that means making them “starve” then fine. Like you said, they will eventually eat SOMETHING. It’s so true.

    I didn’t even notice the grapes were still left over in that commercial. UGH. I hate Tyson.

  • Elizabeth

    My children are grown now (18 and 21) and food is the ONE thing I wish I could “do over” with my kids. I used to “sneak” veggies into their food. Wrong move. Both my kids do eat fruits and vegetables now, but not as well as I would hope for — and my oldest still wants to pour ranch dressing all over his veggies. I do feel bad that I wasn’t more thoughtful from the beginning about how I presented vegetables to them. However, we did NOT eat fast food or frozen “nuggets” of any kind, so at least they were eating real food (mostly.) And neither of them eat fast food now. So I guess that’s something. And with what I now know about Tyson I sure am glad we never knowingly ate Tyson chicken.

  • Amen to that sister! Your method of feeding kids is EXACTLY how my mother fed me and my sisters, and we all have very healthy and sophisticated palates because of it. Believe me, when you’re hungry enough, you’ll develop a taste for ANYthing;)

  • I totally agree with this!

  • I sometimes think being a picky eater can turn out good! : ) But you probably need to start off with not being picky and enjoying everything. I like to put homemade italian dressing on my veggies to make them tasty! Kid approved!

  • So, I’m not the only one who noticed the grapes remained untouched!!!

  • i think it’s hard to really know the pressure that parents face when feeding their kiddos since i don’t have kids, but i think a LOT of it is the attitude of the parents towards food. i think the parents need to be open to eating a variety of things themselves and discuss what they’re eating. not a revelation, but just my 2 cents :)

  • I TOTALLY agree with this! While I do not have kids, I remember growing up and my parents MADE us eat what was served. If we didn’t want it, oh well, we went hungry. Luckily, I was never one who ever wanted to go hungry so I ate what was given to me. Kids will try things – will they like everything? No, but they need to be exposed. I don’t believe in making kids separate meals just because the meal isn’t “kid friendly”.

  • What a fantastic post! Seriously… I get so annoyed with parents being push-overs. YOU ARE THE ADULT. I agree- your child isn’t going to starve. Give them a variety to try, so if they truly hate broccoli, maybe they’ll eat brussel sprouts instead. But I agree… keep putting it in front of them and they’ll eat it. Growing up, artichokes were my brother and my favorite food! Think we came about that on our own? Or through a health-conscious mom who put veggies in front of us? ;)

  • I was that picky eater, until I met my husband. I REFUSED to try anything new, OMG the things I missed over the year.

    I totally sent this article to my friend:)

  • I totally agree. My mom never made my sister try anything and now she’s 22 years old and only eats things with cheese, no sauce, chicken nuggets or fish sticks and corn. Nothing green.

  • I agree! My mum raised us on the philosophy that if we’re really hungry, we will eat what we’re given. As a result she had three non-picky, healthy eaters!

  • While my daughter is only 15 months, she is a great eater. She has really never had anything processed. Her meals always include at least one vegetable (the only ones she doesn’t like are brussel sprouts and asparagus,) protein in the form of salmon, organic cottage cheese, cage free chicken and eggs, and lots of beans/hummus. She eats far more food than any of my friends’ kids and loves to eat. I think it may have something to do with real food.

  • I totally agree with you. I mean, I’m sure it’s difficult to satisfy a picky eater and I don’t have kids so I can’t really offer parenting advice, but I know that I was pretty picky as a kid but my mom always asked me to try a little bit of everything. Now I love all different kinds of foods. I still have an aversion to some foods (like beets and watermelon and parsley) but for the most part I’ll eat anything and everything.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of cooking things in different ways to get your kid to eat it. I hated Brussels sprouts for my whole life because I hated the way they were made at my house but when I started making them myself now I LOVE them!

  • well to be honest, within 2 seconds i was annoyed that they was advertising to children.

    i know it’s very easy for me to talk since i don’t have children of my own, but i think this commercial exemplifies how all too often parents ALLOW their children to be picky eaters. just because kids only like white food (like chicken nuggets and french fries) doesn’t mean they don’t have to eat other things! my husband (love him to death of course) but he never learned to eat ANYTHING till he met me because his mom never taught him to. that robs a child, imho. and like Kylie said “who’s the parent here?” then again, we’ll see how adament i am when i have kids. they’ll probably be spoiled to death and live off candy corn and fruit loops. ah….can’t wait. :P

  • I’m probably (very!) biased as a vegetarian, but I definitely find this commercial to be misleading. Sure, it might be 100% chicken, but how would viewers like to see photos of the chickens they used? It wouldn’t be pretty. Further, I work with parents frequently on the topic of healthy cooking, and I get so frustrated when they say “He’ll only eat pizza, fries, and chicken nuggets.” Who’s the parent here?! And obviously these foods are an option in the house. If they’re not an option, the kids don’t have the luxury of eating them.

    I’ll be curious to see your thoughts on the commercial!

  • Processed food is processed food. So how is it natural again? Kids were cute though:)

  • 100% all natural really doesn’t mean anything. Lots of things are natural, but that doesn’t mean they are good for me or that I want to eat them. I mean, chicken beaks are all natural, right? These things have a ton of sodium, too, don’t they?

    I’m also kind of ticked that my son could see this. He’s too little now, but I don’t want a commercial putting those ideas in his head when he’s older. I could just see him deciding he didn’t like spaghetti or green beans based on seeing this. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure he likes all kinds of food! I don’t need things like this undoing all my careful pro-veggie work. Why can’t we all just give kids a little credit for liking something other than chicken nuggets?

  • My first thought? What cute kids! :)

    But of course I don’t trust processed chicken… especially without seeing the ingredient list. Besides, it is way to easy to make your own oven-”fried” chicken strips at home and that way I’m able to control everything that goes into them!

  • i don’t understand how they are 100% chicken? umm what’s in the breading?

  • TYSON are the DEVIL! Grrrrrrr! This is such a disgrace…..not a great message, but it will sell their nasty chicken, ughhh,

  • After seeing this link, I can’t look at chicken nuggets the same again!
    I agree that this paints a realistic picture of kiddos, and its super cute. But I think its showing the all-American quick fix to feeding children. I mean, I understand that Tyson is doing its job with its advertising, but still… why not roast a chicken at home and make something for the kids with it?

  • I don’t understand how Tyson can say it has natural ingredients. There isnt much natural about those nuggets.

    I think the commercial is cute (i mean, those kids are adorable) but definitely sends an iffy message.

  • Amy

    Too funny…I actually thought of you when I first saw this!
    My honest opinion is that it paints a realistic picture of children. It’s funny and cute in the beginning, when they’re listing all of the foods they won’t eat. Every child is picky in one way or another.

    The disconnect for me is the message of “Will your child not eat asparagus? Well then try chicken nuggets!” Uhhhhhhh what?

    Also, my favorite part is when the little girl ate all of her chicken but none of her grapes and said “Can I have more?” Is this supposed to be a positive message? A cute spin would have been a commercial for a veggie or fruit and having the child ask for seconds of THAT rather than the breaded chicken lumps. But that would never happen.

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