Children Nutrition Concerns? How Do I Get My Picky Eaters to Finish Eating Everything on Their Plate?

Pleading with her seven year old son, Ann feels discouraged when begging him to eat just one more bite of carrots. Instead, her son just continues to play with his food and stare at it.

Picky eaters who help in the garden tend to try the food they have grownShe can’t begin to count the plates of food that have gone to waste because her son does not finish everything on his plate. No matter what she fixes she cannot get her son to eat all the food on his plate.

Ann is so frustrated and tired of having an argument with her son over dinner about him not finishing all his food. Ann is desperate and wonders “How can I get my son to eat all his food?”

Do you have children nutrition  concerns when your children leave piles of food on their plates and don’t finish all their food?

Do you argue with your picky eaters between 5 and 13 over finishing the food on their plate?

Growing up, you probably learned that you had to finish everything on your plate before you got up. As a parent, you probably want to set aside that outdated attitude, but are concerned whether your child is getting enough to eat.

Reasons Your Picky Eaters May Not Be Eating:

  • Your children could be distracted. They may be distracted if they constantly want to get up during dinner, or seem focused on something else going on in the room.
  • Your children may be full already. If they are just playing with the rest of their food and seem uninterested in finishing the food on their plate, then your children may be full before they finish all their food. 

Solutions to Help Your Picky Eaters Eat:

Remember you always want to avoid forcing your children to eat. Ultimately, children have control over their own bodies and what goes into it, so avoid pushing the issue of food to the point that it becomes a power struggle.

Children nutrition  is number one, not the outcome of an argument. If you push the issue of food, your children may develop eating disorders later in life.

While overall nutrition is your bottom line, there are choices you can offer your children that will prevent these power struggles. For example, “It’s important to drink something healthy with your breakfast. Do you want juice or water?”

Also, if you can address the cause of the children not finishing the food, it usually eliminates the problem:

  • If your children are distracted while eating, set a time limit. Tell them, “I’ve seen you’ve eaten this much, so let’s see if you can finish all of just one food item on your plate by a certain time.”
  • If your children refuse to eat, then remind them that there will not be any snacks until the next meal time. If they still refuse, remind them that it is their choice to not eat until the next meal time.
  • If your children say they are full after not finishing all their food, then do not force them to eat the rest of their food. Make a “doggie bag” for them and save it for later.
  • If your children ask for a snack after saying they were full after the last meal time, then let them eat their doggie bag leftovers or consider allowing healthy snacks between meal times.

You want to pay more attention to children nutrition overall, instead of any one meal or day. If they have an imbalanced meal or day where they don’t eat well, don’t worry too much. Look more at how nutritiously they ate during the week or as an overall pattern.

Improving children’s nutrition may seem like a big change, so just make one little change at a time. You are sure to see some successes and can build up to the bigger changes over time.


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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