The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Picky Eater Pleasers

Picky Eater Pleasers

Dietitian Dialogues

September 26, 2010

While we think of the classic “picky eater” as being of preschool age, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal called attention to the grown-up picky eater. The self-proclaimed picky eaters quoted in this article are working mothers, 30-somethings and retirees – far from their preschool years – who have food repertoires limited to just 10 to 15 different foods. These individuals avoid social eating occasions at all costs and exhibit intense anxiety when offered foods they have never experienced before. 

Experts have narrowed down the foods preferred by picky eaters to include bland and pale colored foods. Missing from such a diet are key nutrients like the abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber found in whole grain foods and fruits and vegetables. Here are some basic meal time tips and strategies to guide your shoppers as they help their picky eating youngsters expand their culinary horizons and grow into healthy eating adults.

Be a Role Model

Kids of all ages love to imitate their parents. Set a good example by building meals around plenty of produce, whole grains, beans, low fat dairy and lean protein. Sip primarily water, low fat milk and occasionally 100% juice instead of soft drinks. And don’t forget to maintain an eating schedule that includes three meals, plus two to three snacks in between.

Recruit Their Help

When kids have been involved in the planning, shopping and preparation of the meal, they have more of a vested interest in the meal than if it was simply served to them. Delegate age appropriate kitchen tasks that include counting recipe ingredients, washing fresh produce, sprinkling dried herbs and spices and assembling simple dishes like sandwiches to foster your youngster’s healthy eating habits and reduce meal preparation time!

Try a New Look

Foods that may not appeal to kids in one form may very well appeal in another. For example, kids may dislike raw carrots but enjoy roasted carrots, or they may not like apples but go crazy for applesauce. Experts also agree it can take up to 15 tastes of a food before it is accepted. The characteristics of foods like color, texture and smell play a significant role in our decision to accept or reject foods, so exhaust all options before eliminating it from your child’s diet.

Make it Fun

And finally, exercise your creative side by using cookie cutters to cut foods into interesting shapes, or spruce up different foods with dips, sauces or spreads. As long as your child continues to grow at a consistent rate without drastic changes in behavior, there is typically not a cause for concern. Remember, this is a temporary and normal part of development, and a positive attitude with a dash of patience and some fun is necessary in order to be successful.

Beth Stark, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and Healthy Living Coordinator for Weis Markets, Inc., a regional grocery store chain with 154 stores in five states. In this role, Beth provides nutrition and wellness education to Weis Markets customers and is a key contributor to the Weis Healthy Bites™ program. She is a Pennsylvania Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist and active member of the American Dietetic Association.

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at