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Parenting Picky Eaters


When it comes to kids’ health, parents have plenty to worry about. Are your children getting enough sleep and exercise? Too much screen time and sugar? And for the love of Pete, why won’t they eat any vegetables? Picky eating tends to peak in the preschool years, but it’s a problem some parents face all the way through the teens. (I have a six-year-old who will eat exactly two vegetables: artichokes and, oddly enough, sauerkraut.)


A new study published in the journal Nutrients looked at whether kids who were picky eaters at age three stayed that way through adolescence and what effects it might have on their health. The result? Well, there’s good news and bad news.


The Good News
Researchers found that children who were picky eaters at age three did still eat less fruit, vegetables, and meat at the age of ten than their peers. But by thirteen, dietary differences were beginning to shrink between the picky and non-picky groups. So, it seems most kids do outgrow picky eating.


The Bad News

While all the kids in the study were getting enough protein in their diets, most youngsters were not eating enough fruit and vegetables, even the ones who weren’t particularly picky.*[1],[2] (The Centers for Disease Control recommends that kids aged 2-18 eat 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables every day, depending on age, gender, and physical activity level.)[3]


What You Can Do

Patience is key when dealing with picky eaters. There’s a chance it’s a passing phase, so avoid getting into struggles over food that can make the problem worse. Rather than forcing your kids to clear their plates or bribing them with dessert, just keep introducing small portions of healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and model healthy eating yourself. My only rules around fruits and veggies are 1. That they are served with every meal and, 2. That my daughter has to take one bite; after that, she can refuse.  


Another strategy: Consider what your child’s objection to the food is. If it’s texture, a kid who won’t touch steamed kale or spinach may happily drink it in a smoothie. (I also chop veggies very small and sneak them into marinara sauce, chili, and even meat and cheese quesadillas.) Similarly, kids who likes crunchy foods may prefer raw carrots with a dip to cooked carrots, while those who prefer everything soft might go for a baked sweet potato. I know feeding my daughter broccoli got a lot easier when I realized she loved it roasted (and no other way).


Juice Plus+ Can Help
Despite your best efforts, there may be plenty of times when your kids just aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. Juice Plus+ chewables and capsules can help bridge the gap. The Family Health Study has found that once families take the small step of adding Juice Plus+ to their daily regimen, other healthy changes follow. Families enrolled in the Healthy Starts for Families program eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water, eat less fast food, and drink fewer sugary drinks than they did before enrolling. And if you register your child in the study, you can receive Juice Plus+ chewables for your kiddo free for up to a year, as well as support, recipes, and tips to help you focus on the four pillars of health: fitness, nutrition, hydration, and sleep.


Do you have tips for feeding picky eaters?





[1] Shoup ME. Study looks into whether picky eating habits follow a child into adolescence. Nutraingredients. 2019 May 22.

[2] Taylor CM, Hays NP, Emmett PM. Diet at 10 and 13 in children identified as picky eaters at age 3 years and in children who are persistent picky eaters in a longitudinal birth cohort study. Nutrients. 2019 Apr 10 ;11(4): pii: E807. doi: 10.3390/nu11040807.

[3] Press release. Children eating more fruit, but fruit and vegetable intake still too low. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 5, 2014.




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