How to handle a picky eater (ages 2 to 4)

Why is my child such a picky eater?

It’s perfectly normal for preschoolers to object to the shape, color, or texture of a food – or to suddenly decide that they hate everything, even foods they loved yesterday. It’s also common for them to have what experts call food jags. That is, they insist on eating the same few foods at every meal.

“It’s a fear of new things,” says Nancy Hudson, a registered dietitian at the University of California, Berkeley. “We think it’s one of those quirks that humans probably developed to protect themselves as mankind evolved. You don’t try new things because you don’t know if they’re safe.”

This fear of new things usually tapers off by age 4 or 5, but for some children it continues into adulthood. At any rate, whether it’s his bedtime routine or his peanut butter sandwich cut on the diagonal, your child probably likes things to be consistent and familiar, and he may not be willing to try new foods until you’ve served them numerous times.

Picky eating can also be a preschooler’s way of declaring his independence (“You can’t make me eat that”). It may have less to do with the actual food than a need to test the limits of your authority and assert some control over his life.


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