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Tips for Parents with Picky Eaters

Does your preschooler want to eat chicken nuggets every day? Does your toddler refuse to eat carrots? If your child doesn’t want to eat the healthy meals and snacks you fix, there are strategies that can help. The Let’s Move! Child Care (LMCC) website offers tips to help young children learn to enjoy healthy meals and snacks. Here are some examples from the LMCC website:

  • Do the dip. Toddlers and preschoolers love dipping, so try serving veggies with yogurt, hummus, low-fat dressing, or low-fat melted cheese.
  • Don’t use food as a reward or punishment. Avoid forcing kids to finish the “healthy foods” to get to their dessert. That can make the healthy foods seem like punishment and force kids to eat when they’re full.
  • Have children help make the food. When kids help stir and add ingredients, they feel proud of what they’ve made and may be more likely to try new, healthy foods. To find kid-friendly recipes and more tips, visit LMCC’s Healthy Eating page.

You can also talk with your early care and education provider about creating opportunities for your child to try new healthy foods while in care. For example, providers can lead a game or give a lesson around trying a new fruit or vegetable, making it fun for your child to join with other kids and try a bite.

Most importantly, keep trying! It may take 10 to 15 tries for preschoolers to like new foods. But even picky eaters can learn to like fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Teaching kids to like healthy foods early on will help them develop healthy eating habits that can continue as they grow up.

Interested in resources on nutrition? Visit the Let’s Move! Child Care Resource Center. While you're there check out “Toddlers at the Table: Avoiding Power Struggles,” an article for parents from -- powered by Nemours, a non-profit organization dedicated to children’s health and healthcare.

Let’s Move! Child Care is a nationwide call-to-action to empower early care and education providers to make positive health changes in children that could last a lifetime. LMCC is for parents and caregivers, too. As a parent or caregiver, you can use the free online resources and talk with your early care and education providers, so that together you can give your kids the very best start.

References to non-federal organizations are provided solely as a service to the audience. These references do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations, their programs and policies, or their research and materials by CDC or the Federal Government, and none should be inferred.