Picky Eaters

boy getting ready to eat

Welcome to the Missouri WIC Participant Nutrition Education website. If you are a WIC participant, please enter your name and State ID number.  Type the Household ID if more than one family member is a participant.

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By the end of this session you will:

  • Recognize the food groups and state how much of each group your child should eat daily.
  • Recognize portion/serving sizes.
  • Discuss the role of the parent and the child during meal times.
  • Know the definition of food jags; identify if your child has a food jag.
  • State two ways to get your child to eat vegetables.

What can I do about my "Picky eater"??

A parent's job is to encourage a child to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods in appropriate amounts.  This guidance is not always easy but can be very rewarding as a child grows and develops into a healthy adult.  What and how you feed your child can make a tremendous difference.  Good nutrition is necessary for body growth, for maintaining or restoring health, and for the brain's and nervous system's growth and functioning.  Good nutrition helps a child learn, concentrate, and play with others.  Sometimes however, a child may be a "picky eater".  If you have a picky eater don't worry, you're not alone!  During this lesson we will discuss what your child needs nutritionally to grow and develop and we will also discuss how to cope with your child's picky habits.  Have fun and keep an open mind!

activity 1

Name three concerns you have about your child's eating habits.

"What Foods Should My Child Eat Every Day?"

*Children under 2 years should drink whole milk because they need the extra fat for growth and development.  

*Limit milk to 2 cups (16 ounces) per day.  If your child drinks more than 2 cups of milk daily, he/she may get filled up and not want to eat food.

activity 2

1. So, how is our child doing with his/her diet? Think back to yesterday and answer the following:


6 ounce equivalents (1 ounce equivalent is about 1 slice bread, 1 cup dry cereal or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal.

Make at least half your grains whole grains

2 ½ cups (Choose from dark green, orange starchy, dry beans and peas or other vegetables)

Color your plate with all kinds of great tasting vegetables

1 ½ cups

Make most choices fruit not juice.

2 cups (1 cup yogurt or 1½ ounces cheese= 1 cup milk

Choose fat free or low fat milk most often.

5 ounce equivalents (1 ounce equivalent is 1 ounce of meat, chicken or turkey or fish 1 egg 1 T. peanut butter, ½ ounce nuts or ¼ cup dry beans.

Choose lean meat , chicken or turkey.  Vary your choices-more fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

Citrus Fruit

activity 3

** Children should not drink more than 4 - 6 ounces of juice in one day.  Along with many vitamins, juice also has lots of sugar. 

Nutrition Facts


To create a customized My Pyramid Plan for your child (or yourself!)  check out this site



activity 4

Do you think your child is a "picky eater"?

Here are some tips given by Ellyn Satter to help you with your "picky eater":

  • Divide the responsibility for eating.
      girl eating hotdog
    • YOU are responsible for what your child is offered to eat, where, and when it is presented.
      • Plan the menu, get the food on the table, and make mealtime pleasant.
    • Your CHILD is responsible for how much he/she eats and even whether he/she eats at all.
      • Remember, kids fight back when they feel pressured to eat.
  • Offer a variety of food.
    • Let your child pick and choose from what is available.
  • Have structured meals and snacks.
    • Offer meals and snacks at the same time daily.
  • Make meals worthwhile.
    • Eat at the dinner table and make the meal pleasant and light.
  • Trust your child to eat well.
    • Children have the built-in ability to eat a variety of foods.  They will eventually come up with a balanced diet if they are offered healthy, balanced choices.
  • Respect eating quirks.
    • Your child simply won't understand that a sandwich cut in quarters is the same as one cut in half.  He/she may find carrot slices delicious, but carrot strips inedible.  Or he/she may eat yogurt enthusiastically today, but reject it tomorrow.  All this is normal!  You can safely respect your child's wishes without being afraid that you'll spoil or make him/her picky.

Some Common Concerns

What is a Food Jag?

So, your child wants a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or a bag of popcorn every meal?  Welcome to the world of food jags.

The first thing you should know is food jags are normal.  Children get in a rut; they want to eat the same foods over and over.  The second thing to know is food jags are usually short lived.  Just keep offering your child a variety of food and hang in there!

activity 5

Does your child currently have a food jag?

My child won't eat vegetables!

If you're like most parents, you worry when your child won't eat vegetables.  Here are some tips you can try:

  • offer a wide variety of vegetables prepared in different ways, both cooked and raw with a dip
  • have your child help prepare the vegetables
  • encourage your child to try at least one bite
  • remember, it's important to be a good role model so eat your veggies too
  • you can substitute fruits for vegetables until your child learns to eat vegetables - fruits have lots of the same vitamins and minerals as vegetables

Some Points To Remember:

  • A children's multivitamin is sometimes a good idea, ask your pediatrician if your child should be taking one.
  • Don't give your child nutrition supplement drinks like Pediasure or Pedialyte unless your pediatrician prescribes them.
  • Ask your WIC clinic staff to show you your child's growth grid so that you will know if your child is growing normally.

Reading Book


Here are some books on eating habits you can read to your children:

  • Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban, Harper & Row, 1964
  • Green Eggs & Ham, by Dr. Suess, Random House, 1960

activity 6

* 1. You are responsible for _______ your child is offered to eat, _______ and _______ it is presented.

* 2. Your child is responsible for _______ he/she eats and even _______ he/she eats at all.


4. Name two ways to try to get your child to eat vegetables.


5. Name three changes you can make to help your child eat a balanced, healthy diet.



For more information on healthy eating for children please visit www.ellynsatter.com

Thank you for completing the Picky Eaters Education Component.


 * Where are you taking today's lesson?

You have completed the Child Class on “Picky Eaters”. If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

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