Why You Shouldn’t Ask You Child What They Want to Eat – and what to do instead

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and the waiter/waitress walks up and asks “What do you want to eat” without giving you a menu?! Of course not.

You would have no idea what was even available in the kitchen nor would you know what the chef could even make.


Asking your child, especially a picky eater, “What do you want to eat?” is setting your child up for frustration and staying in the cycle of picky eating

While this might seem like an easy way to make something your picky eater will like, it’s also a really fast way to cause a meltdown.

Oh, you want a PB&J sandwich? Well, we are out of peanut butter …. *cue meltdown

Oh, you want a hamburger? Well I only have 10 minutes to get lunch ready so I can’t make that right now… *cue meltdown*

When you give them a million options without any reasonable boundaries, it can end up frustrating for everyone.


With the Division of Responsibility (see highlights) we learn as the adult it is our job to decide WHAT foods are being offered and WHEN – but that doesn’t mean your child can’t have any say in what they are eating.


The best way to foster independence but also set reasonable boundaries is by PROVIDING OPTIONS.

YOU still decide what is being offered and when but you allow your child a “choice” in the matter by providing two comparable options. 

This allows your child a perceived sense of control over what they are eating but ultimately still leaves you in charge of deciding what is being offered – so you can make sure it’s something you actually have and have time to prepare!

So next time you catch yourself starting to say “What do you want to eat”, stop and rephrase it as “Would you rather have ___ or ___ to go along with ____”.

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Published by snackswithjax

Sarah is the creator and mom behind "Snacks with Jax", a social media community of over 85,000 parents/caregivers, where she shares her son's meals, nutrition information, and evidence-based tips for feeding children. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition emphasizing in Wellness from Texas Woman's University and years of experience as a culinary instructor working with ages 2+. She has coached hundreds of parents & caregivers through the journey introducing solids to babies and also navigating picky eating with toddlers and older children. Her focus is on establishing a life-long healthy relationship with food for children while also empowering, encouraging, and educating their adult caregivers.

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