The Facts About Difficult Eaters

It is tough to know how a child will react to foods being introduced into his or her diet. A child may happily accept one food while rejecting the other—or reject all foods entirely. It is important for caregivers to keep in mind these myths about food and eating while working with children who are difficult feeders.

  • If children are hungry enough, they will eat. They will not starve themselves. Not true.
  • Children only need to eat three times per day. Not true.
  • Eating is easy. Not true.
  • If a child is not eating, they are just acting. Not true.

Caregivers should keep these truths about food in mind while feeding their child:

  • Messy is good. Allow a child, especially very young children, to experience the food by seeing, touching, smelling and tasting the food.
  • Everyone has preferences and no one person likes all foods and food textures—including children.
  • Children should be praised for trying a food, even if they don’t love it because positive reinforcement yields positive behavior. Yelling and other negative behaviors showing the caregiver’s frustration will not encourage the child to eat more food.
  • The normal reaction to new tastes is rejection.
  • Children under age 8 need to be presented with and eat a new food 10 times before it’s a regular food.
  • Children over age 8 need to be presented with and eat a new food 15 times before it’s a regular food.

Learn more about feeding problems: