Got a picky eater? If so, you may be concerned your child isn't getting enough nutrients.

The fact is that about 20 percent of children in the United States today are fussy about what they eat. But the goods news is that even if your child falls into this group and eats only a very limited selection of foods, he's likely still getting the vitamins and minerals he needs to grow and be his best.

What You Should Know

If you're the parent of a picky eater, you may find mealtime very frustrating when your child won't eat what you make for dinner. If you're not sure how to handle this fussiness, experts say your reaction should depend on his age. Here are some things you can do to help you get through each stage.

Babies/Toddlers: As your baby begins eating more solid foods, this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce a wide palette of tastes. Focus on offering healthful choices that are easy to chew. You can even give your little one simple choices that will help him feel like he has a part in what you make. This can help further his independence and teach him to appreciate a wide range of textures and flavors.

School-Aged Kids: It's common for school-age children to be picky eaters. As your child grows, he may use mealtimes as a chance to exert his preferences. Therefore, food can be used a way to gain control—you'll need to be careful on how you handle the situation. Continue to offer nutritious meals and encourage your child to try new things, but don't force the issue. Use positive reinforcement and reward the willingness to sample different tastes. Just keep in mind that it can take multiple times to learn to like something new, so don't be disappointed if your child doesn't like a new taste in the first few tries. In addition, don't let mealtime become a battle. Nutritionists suggest making light of your child's fussiness and never forcing him to eat something he doesn't want, since this can set him up future eating problems.

Tweens: You can help your tween be a healthy eater by being a good example--if you eat well, your child is likely to follow your lead. Serving nutritious meals for the whole family and making sure that everyone takes the time from their busy schedule to sit down together at least a few times a week can work wonders. Also, give your tween responsibility in helping you plan and prepare some meals. By having a vested interest in meals and teaching the importance of including something from each of the food groups, you can be giving your child a foundation he can continue to build on over the years. Finally, realize that some tweens may want to fill up on juice and snacks and be less interested in fruits, vegetables and other nutritious things to eat. Limit the amount of junk food and sugary treats you keep in your house and offer easy-to-grab, healthful snacks and meals.

Learn More

The bottom line is that even the pickiest children will expand their tastes over time. As long as your child is growing well, you should have nothing to worry about. But if you have concerns about your child's diet or attitudes toward food, your pediatrician can offer advice or refer you to a dietician that specializes in children's nutrition. In addition, you can visit the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's website at to get recommended guidelines for daily nutrients and to get some simple ideas on how to help your child eat right.




American Academy of Pediatrics

U.S. Department of Agriculture/My Pyramid for Kids

Parents First for Health/Great Ormond Street Hospital