As many as half of all elementary school-age kids are picky eaters. And while most grow out of it, finicky food habits can continue into adolescence.
If your 10-year-old doesn’t like trying new foods, you’re not alone. Lots of kids — and plenty of adults, too — are hesitant about unfamiliar tastes, smells, textures, and colors.
So, what’s the answer? Read on for tips and ideas for picky 10-year-olds.
What you can try
Trying to convince a headstrong kid to eat a variety of foods can be a frustrating task, especially when most attempts fail. While there’s no single foolproof solution, here are some things that might work.
Grocery shop together
See if your 10-year-old wants to join you at the grocery store. Encourage them to pick out a few fruits, veggies, healthy snacks, and maybe something new you can try cooking together at home. Allow them some big yes moments — even if it’s something you’re convinced they’ll never try.
Explore a healthy kids’ cookbook
Consider getting a kids’ cookbook. At age 10, your child can probably follow recipes for simple meals or snacks themselves. If they’re not up for it, try a few together. There are also tons of children’s cooking videos on YouTube, making it easy to follow along with kid-friendly instructions.
When offering new foods, the Mayo Clinic recommends starting with small portions — two or three bites’ worth is plenty. Larger quantities can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to unfamiliar foods.
Wait and offer it again later
As many parents are aware, kids’ tastes and preferences are ever-changing. While your child may have tried (or flat-out refused) to eat certain things at a younger age, it might be worth offering previously rejected foods again.
Sometimes, it can take several tries before they come around. But as long as you’re not too pushy and space out your attempts, there’s no harm in giving it another shot.
Eat as a family
It won’t miraculously make a picky eater more adventurous, but eating as a family might help the cause. Turn off the TV, put all screens away (including parents’ smartphones), and gather around the table to enjoy a meal together and chat about life.
Avoid short-order requests
You want your child to eat something, so preparing food you know they like is understandable. However, the Mayo Clinic advises against short-order requests. When you commit to making just one meal for the whole family, your 10-year-old won’t assume you’ll make something else if they refuse what’s in front of them. It’s important to still have something to offer that feels like a safe food for your child. Whether that’s a side of fruit or a bread basket depends on your meal plan. But many picky eaters won’t eat something new or something they previously disliked, even if they’re hungry.
Talk about nutrition
Talking to your child about nutrition in an easy-to-digest way can help them understand why it’s important to eat various foods. To boost the narrative, you might add that eating a varied diet will help them grow strong, have more energy, and do well in school.
Lead by example
It’s also important to lead by example and this includes food restriction. Restricting foods may have a negative impact or make binging more likely. By making an effort to eat a well-rounded diet and have a healthy relationship with food you can encourage your child to do the same. Like eating meals together, this isn’t the only piece of the puzzle when trying to get through to a picky eater, but it can help.
Don’t force it
If your child’s not hungry or isn’t a fan of something they just tried, don’t force food on them. Although encouraging good habits is crucial, pushing often creates even more resistance. Just imagine how you’d feel if you were forced to try something unappetizing to you!
Additionally, while picky eating is common, some kids have more sensitive palates, and others may take longer to grow out of the stage. Respect your child’s tastes, listen to their opinions, and don’t hesitate to contact their pediatrician for nutritional guidance or for more help with extreme pickiness.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
Read more from this series
- Taylor CM and Emmett PM. Picky eating in children: causes and consequences. Proc Nutr Soc. 2019. 78(2):161-169. doi:10.1017/S0029665118002586
- McCarthy C. Beyond Chicken Nuggets: Protein-Rich Alternatives for Picky Eaters. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2021. Web.
- Larson H. 8 Ways to Get Picky Eaters to Become More Adventurous. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2021. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Children’s nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Web.
- Milanaik R, et al. Parental Management of Picky Eaters: Common Parenting Pitfalls. Pediatrics. 2019. 144 (2_MeetingAbstract): 210. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.144.2MA3.210
- First L. What Happens to Picky Eaters Over Time? A Study with Some Food for Thought. AAP Journals Blog. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2020. Web.
- McCarthy C. Study gives insight — and advice — on picky eating in children. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School.
- Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN. “Solve Picky Eating: 11 Expert Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters.” Kids Eat in Color. Kids Eat in Color. August 2021. .https://kidseatincolor.com/picky-eating/.
- “10 Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters.” Healthychildren.org. AAP. April 26, 2018. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/Picky-Eaters.aspx.