Has your baby been rejecting food at mealtime? If so, you’re not alone. Babies often have highly discerning tastes that may come off as “picky eating.”

Baby sits smiling in highchair with food.

Image by Stephen Andrews

The term ‘picky eater’ is often used disapprovingly by parents and caregivers to describe a variety of eating behaviors. Some caregivers have expectations of how much food needs to be consumed by their little one, and label their child ‘picky’ if less food is eaten.

It’s a completely normal behavior for your baby as you help them discover new food flavors and textures. Trying out different foods and textures can help you find what they will eat during these phases.

When picky eating and jags begin

Picky eating often shows up around a year of age but may happen sooner. Your baby’s appetite and food intake varies by meal and/or by day. Today’s favorite food is rejected tomorrow, and the preference for only one or two foods, commonly known as food jags, may begin. 

Other caregivers experience food jags with their child, where only one or two foods are acceptable and this may be called ‘picky eating.’ Sometimes toddlers just want to be active, and sitting in the highchair keeps them from their preferred play which earns them the ‘picky’ emblem.

Remember that these eating patterns are normal. Your child’s food intake needs depend on their level of physical activity and what their body needs. It’s important to continue monitoring their weight and ask their pediatrician if you have any concerns.

The best defense is to introduce a variety of tastes at a young age to acclimate the developing palate toward adventurous eating.

Caregiver holds a smiling baby as they offer a Sprout baby food squeeze pouch.

How you can help baby picky eaters

The most important thing you can do when you perceive your child as being a picky eater is to continue to offer a variety of healthy meals on a regular schedule. The selection of foods offered should also include previously rejected foods.

It’s important to remember that your baby is being introduced to a variety of flavors and developing tastes, and it’s perfectly normal if a food is not immediately accepted.

Things to avoid with baby picky eaters

The worst thing that caregivers can do for themselves and their children is to make food and mealtime a battleground. Mealtimes are meant to be pleasant, and forcing your little one to eat can actually cause him or her to become pickier and eat less.

Likewise, avoid bargaining with your child to take one more bite. They will quickly learn how to negotiate bites of food if the reward is dessert. That is a losing proposition for you both. Also avoid unhealthy options for the sake of getting them to eat as this can cause them to not develop a taste for healthier options.

Accept that your child will eat when they are hungry and they will decide how much is enough.  This may be easier said than done. However, if you can stay the course rather than following your toddler around, hoping he will take a bite of something (or anything) you will find yourself in a better place.

Food ideas for a picky eater

Texture and flavor variety

As you’re introducing your baby to solids, they may still prefer purees or liquids alongside or entirely at times. It can be useful to find what soft solid food textures your baby prefers such as banana versus sweet potato or a soft crisp.
It can be useful to introduce your baby to one-ingredient solids for 3-5 days. This can help them get familiar with the new foods and allow enough time for them to try it and see if it’s a flavor they really do not like. If they don’t eat enough of the new food, be sure to supplement their meal with their favorite food puree pouch or other meal you’ll know they’ll eat.

Some food flavors and textures to try:

  • Banana cut into small pieces
  • Chicken chopped finely
  • Pasta well-cooked beyond requiring chewing
  • Potato cooked and cut into small pieces
  • Scrambled eggs cut into bite-size pieces

Test food temperatures

Sometimes babies prefer certain flavors warm and others cold. Your baby may also take to overall warmer foods more than cold or vice versa. It can also depend on their environment temperature. For example, you may want to cool them down on a hot day.

As you’re introducing new flavors and textures, be sure to experiment with food temperature as well to feel out their preferences. This can help you with the success of them taking to current and future foods you try out.

Caregiver holds baby who is reaching for Sprout baby food squeeze pouch sitting on counter nearby.

Get your baby’s preferred food staples delivered to your door

Picky eaters will often have a handful of consistent foods that they will eat regularly with no qualms. You just have to discover which ones those are and then keep them on hand to ensure they are eating enough while you help them explore new foods to expand their palette.

You can skip the grocery line and get a wide variety of flavors and textures in convenient baby food pouches sent to your home.

From fruits and veggies to protein-packed foods and dairy-free options, you can find flavors baby will love. And you’ll know that you’re feeding them high-quality ingredients as all Sprout’s foods are organic & non-GMO with no concentrates or preservatives. Discover your little one’s new favorite foods today!

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