Guide to parenting a picky eater: Seven steps to help your child master new foods

When expanding the foods your picky eater will try, it is best to go slow and steady. Taking more time with the setup is key. It can feel frustrating going at a snail’s pace, but the short, steady progress will win out in the long run. Here are the steps you’ll need to get your picky eater to expand her palate:

Step 1: Stop saying your kid is a picky eater. Your words are powerful, and if your child hears you say this, he may work to make it true. Stop pushing super hard for new foods and talking in front of your child about how frustrating it is that he won’t eat anything.

Step 2: Pick one new food. Choose a food that you want to give to your child every day for the next 30 days. When picking a new food, have it be something close to what he already eats. Think about texture, temperature, taste. Also, make sure it is a food you are willing to eat and can easily have on hand daily.

Step 3: Model the behavior. Sit down with your kids at least one meal a day and eat this food in front of them. Comment about how delicious it is and how much you think they will enjoy it, too. Modeling is powerful!

Step 4: Make the new food an appetizer. Put one bite of this new food on an otherwise empty plate in front of your small one. Set a timer to have the appetizer last just three to five minutes. When the timer goes off, take the plate away, and give your child his regular dinner.

Step 5: Expand the focus on the new food. Keep up the appetizer routine, and in addition to it, put one bite of the new food on your child’s dinner plate. For him to eat dinner, he needs to keep the new food on the plate. No more throwing food or casually dropping it on the floor.

Step 6: Take one bite. If your kiddo has not decided to independently try the new food yet, now is the time. Now that she can tolerate mashed potatoes on her plate, she needs to take one bite. Just like Step 3, you will give a time frame for this to happen. If she does eat it, amazing. Have a powerful reinforcer ready. (I’m a fan of ice cream!) If not, don’t comment or engage around it. Just don’t deliver the reinforcer, and try again tomorrow.

Step 7: Build up a bite at a time. Keep going until this food is something that is regularly part of your kiddo’s diet.

Once you get past Step 7, it is time to pick another food and start back at Step 1. As you move through the steps over and over again for each new food, remember to go slow. This is how you build a good eater for a lifetime!

Dr. Marcie Beigel is the founder of Behavior and Beyond, a company dedicated to behavior change. She brings realistic ideas to real-life behavior that results in lasting changes for families, schools, businesses, and relationships. She is the best-selling author of “Love Your Classroom Again” and “Love Your Family Again.” Visit DrMarcie.com/freegift.