How to Develop Healthy Eating Habits and Get My Picky Eaters between 5 and 13 to Eat a Variety of Foods?

Julie opens the freezer to fix dinner and is bombarded with a mountain of chicken nuggets, her son’s favorite.

“Can we have chicken nuggets, again?” asks her six year old son from across the house.

Sighing, Julie responds, “Yes” and reluctantly pulls out the box of chicken nuggets.

Julie knows it’s not healthy for her son to eat chicken nuggets every night, but she knows of the tantrum she is avoiding by preparing this favorite food of her son’s.

She wonders, “How do I get my children to try different foods?” 

Would you like to transform your picky eaters between 5 and 13 into children that eat healthy food?

Many children get hooked on one kind of food and are weary to eat a variety of food. Or you could find yourself addressing feeding aversion in children, where they refuse to eat a particular type of food. Both are common, but fixable problems.

First, keep in mind, there are 3 things that you can never control about your children:

  • Making them go to sleep
  • Making them go potty
  • Making them eat. You could forcefully stuff it in their mouth as an extreme, but you still can’t make them chew it up and swallow it.

Ultimately, children have control over their bodies and what goes into it, so don’t push the issue of food to the point it becomes a power struggle. 

What to Avoid:

If you want to know how to develop healthy eating habits in your picky eaters between 5 and 13 , you need to first know what to avoid. When adding variety to your children’s meals, be aware of actions that may cause power struggles and do not actually help your children.

  • Avoid forcing your picky eaters to eat all their food. If your children are full, then they are done eating.
  • If you insist on your children being “clean platers” it’s possible your children will overeat and may cause eating disorders in the future

If your children are full when they leave the table, but still have food on their plate, instead of forcing them to eat, just put it in the fridge for later. It’s like having a doggie bag at a restaurant when they give you too much food. This is just one way to develop healthy eating habits.

Solutions to Use Instead:

  • Have your picky eaters brainstorm healthy foods they are willing to try. Have them come up with at least seven. Then rotate including one of them at each meal.
  • Have your children try “no thank you” helpings of the items they picked. “No thank you” helpings are when your children eat one bite to try it.

You may need to fix the foods on their list more than once. If at first they refuse to try new foods, don’t force them. Just have their favorite food available to eat after they have tried other new foods.

After your children try the new foods from their list they will begin to broaden their tastes and eventually be more open to new foods.  This is how to develop healthy eating habits in your picky eaters between 5 and 13.


For more tips and solutions to help your picky eaters eat healthier and more information about The Parent’s Toolshop® and its unique Universal Blueprint® problem-solving system, get the Picky Eaters and Food Issues multimedia training package. It’s a one-hour discussion among parents and nutrition professionals on how to handle the most common food issues parents face, like those in this article series.



Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30+ years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop® and countless multimedia resources that support and educate parents from diverse backgrounds and needs, and other adults who live or work with children. You can find them at her award-winning website,

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