4 Tips To Help Reduce Stress for Parents With Picky Eating

Posted by

Breanne Haeger, MOT, OTR/L

Time to read

4 minutes

Picky Eating Is STRESSFUL!

Your brain is constantly having to figure out how to get your little one to eat:

  • “What should I make for dinner? No, they won’t eat that….”
  • It’s not so fun going out to dinner when it turns into a tantrum or you have to pack a meal (um, isn’t the point to get a break?!)
  • “Maybe if I just mix it in they won’t notice?”
  • “Are they getting enough calories and nutrients?”
  • “Are they growing enough? What’s even enough?!”
  • “Should I just give them the foods I know they’ll eat, or try for ‘healthy‘ ones?”
  • “My friend’s kid eats just fine, why does it have to be so hard for mine?”
  • Grocery shopping: “This looks cool, maybe I’ll try it. Ugh no, I don’t want to waste food/money if they don’t like it.”
  • “I just want to eat a meal where I can RELAX!”

And it goes on and on….

Picky Eating

It is A LOT! You’re not wrong for being stressed. It IS extremely stressful. 

Sometimes we minimize picky eating struggles because it’s common. A study finds up to 50% of parents say their preschooler is a picky eater. 

But that has nothing to do with the stress. We know SO many of you are stressed out behind closed doors, feeling unseen and unheard in this.

First of all, acknowledge yourself for how much you care, everything you’re trying, and everything you have to think about just to make sure your little one eats some food. You are doing a phenomenal job.

We care just as much about your stress and well-being as your kiddo’s. 

And we’ve noticed something MAGICAL. When we support parents in taking some pressure off themselves, the kids often seem to sense this and eat MORE. Wins for all!!

So today, we want to talk about YOU for once. We have some ideas to support you.


Take a week or two off of being the personal chef/meal coach/food enforcer. Give them the “easy foods”–the ones they like. Avoid power struggles. Yes, you can do that. It will be fine. Everyone needs a break. (Also we’ve seen this be super helpful in setting up kids for feeding success–it’s a reset!). 


Make a mental or physical list of everything you do to support your child (including their eating)! Even raising a child is a superhuman feat in itself, (and then add any additional mealtime stress you have). If the guilt comes up, refer to the list 🙂  


Sometimes we get so focused on the end goal, we don’t celebrate all the little baby steps that are happening along the way. Did your child touch a food that they would normally leave on their plate undisturbed? AWESOME! Did they bring it to their nose to smell? AMAZING! Wait, they tasted it a little bit with their tongue? BEST. DAY. EVER! (We know we’re being a little extra, but you get the idea 🙂 )


If you find yourself in a power struggle during mealtime, breathe. If you’re feeling the stress surrounding what to make or buy, breathe. If your little one is upset because they didn’t want you to cut their PB&J like THAT, take a big deep breath. You share your calm with your little(s), and to do that you’ve got to take care of you first. While you’re preparing the meal, take conscious deep breaths.

Embed it in the routine. If the microwave is on for 30 seconds, that’s the perfect time to have a moment where you focus on your energy and what you need. A fun way to get in some calming breaths is singing while you prepare the food! Your little one can join in too and get into a joyful place prior to eating, so this can set everyone up for a pleasant mealtime.

These are just some of the ideas we recommend to parents. We know that when we’re stressed we may often think of these things as a “luxury”. We encourage you to break through that barrier and challenge yourself to find times in your day to acknowledge yourself and de-stress. 

It is not selfish to focus on you. It won’t put you “behind” with your child’s eating success. In fact, you may be surprised to see how it really changes the dynamic and supports your child’s eating!

Schedule a free consult with us today! We are happy to help guide you through this journey with a picky eater!

Free Feeding Consultation