My 4 year old child only eats chicken nuggets for dinner. If we do not have time to get them on the way home he pitches a fit. How can I help him learn to try something else?

Helping your child develop healthy eating habits can be hard work! The way you feed your child is just as important as what you feed your child. Setting an appropriate division of responsibility in feeding can help make your job easier (

  • Parents are responsible for what, when and where.
  • Children are responsible for how much and whether.

This means that a parent’s job is to decide what’s for dinner, when dinner time begins, and where dinner is eaten. However, the child gets to decide how much to eat and whether or not to eat, but from the food that is offered. There may be times when your child chooses not to eat, and that’s OK. Do not become a short order cook and give in to his requests. Accept his decision, and let him know there will be nothing else offered until the next scheduled meal or snack.

When offering new foods, remember that a child may need to see a new food up to a dozen times before deciding to try it. Offer new foods alongside foods you know he will like, and be a good role model by trying new foods yourself. Some preschoolers prefer their foods to be separate, for example, noodles, chicken and vegetables served on the same plate, but not necessarily mixed in a casserole-type meal.

Make trying new foods fun by allowing your child to pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store, and letting him help prepare dinner. Children that help in the kitchen tend to try and like more foods, feel important and proud of their accomplishment, and are learning early math, science and vocabulary skills. Find more information at

It’s possible that your son is feeling very hungry on the way home. Pack a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit, baby carrots, whole wheat crackers or string cheese. If he is not hungry enough to eat a healthy snack, he’s not hungry.

We develop our taste preferences in early childhood, so it’s important to expose young children to a variety of healthy foods. Be patient, and soon your child will get used to eating what, when, and where you choose.

This post was written by Monica Griffin, MS, RD, LD.