When Sweet Turns Sour: How to Handle Picky Eaters

dealing with picky eaters, preschool dietary guidelines

Mealtime is never easy for picky eaters, but as an early childhood educator, you can help your students form healthier eating habits in school and at home.

Picky eaters are very common in preschool, and many of these kids will carry their bad habits with them to adulthood unless they learn to love healthy meals. Picky eaters may refuse to try new types of food, and some only have a few things they are willing to eat. This can make it difficult for them to follow preschool dietary guidelines and get the nutrition they need to grow up strong and healthy. The following tips will come in handy when you are dealing with picky eaters in your classroom or daycare.

Do Not Force It.

Many parents and teachers make the mistake of pressuring children to eat healthy foods. This approach is not recommended for dealing with picky eaters because studies have shown that trying to force children to eat can actually make them eat less. They may also turn down food in the future if they have felt pressured to eat it in the past. The negative feelings you might cause by pushing a picky eater during lunchtime can backfire and even affect their diet as a teenager or adult.

Set a Good Example.

Setting a good example is a great way to convince picky eaters to try new foods. If you eat lunches that follow preschool dietary guidelines in front of your students, they may be more willing to follow your lead. Research shows that enthusiastically eating healthy foods and saying things like, “Mmm! This carrot is so tasty!” can help your preschoolers give foods a second chance. Be sure to refer to the foods by name and use positive words and expressions when describing them. Remember that picky eating can spread from one student to another in a similar way, so do not be afraid to rearrange seats during lunch.

Involve the Parents.

Working with parents is crucial for dealing with picky eaters. Much like temper tantrums, many of the food issues that show up in the classroom are also problems at home. Encourage families to follow these mealtime tips that encourage children to overcome their pickiness:

  • • Parents and siblings should avoid negative reactions when trying new foods in front of children.
  • • Family members should all eat healthy foods together to set a good example.
  • • Parents should avoid preparing separate meals for children if they do not like the offered food.
  • • Children should help with cooking, which can encourage them to eat the food they prepared.

If you are an early childhood educator who is interested in preschool dietary guidelines or dealing with picky eaters, sign up for childcare courses at Naptime Academy. Watch a single course or sign up for a year to earn your state-required clock hours of training. For more information, contact Naptime Academy at 866-377-6824.