Prevent Picky Eating for Life with Katie Kimball

In today’s episode of The Gentle Parenting Show, Kim is joined by Katie Kimball. Katie is a blogger, former teacher, and mom of 4 kids. She founded the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, which was recommended by the Wall Street Journal as the best online cooking class for kids. She is passionate about helping families stay healthy without going crazy, and is on a mission to connect families around healthy food and teach every child in America to cook. In today’s episode, Kim and Katie talk about preventing picky eating in the early toddler years. 

Preventing Picky Eating

Katie has 4 kids ranging in age from 1st grade to a junior in high school. Like all kids, they have strong preferences for what they like. Some of her kids even went through ebbs and flows of picky eating – one child refused green food from 2 years old through 1st grade, and they now happily eat green veggies. Breaking through picky eating requires consistency and creativity. 

It’s important for parents to think outside the box when dealing with picky eating. Serve what you WANT your kids to eat. If you want to stick to your nutritious goals, then you need to feed your kids real food. Katie warns against falling into the trap of feeding them not-so-great foods just to get them to eat. She says “you would never let your child choose their bedtime, don’t let them choose their food.” 

Preventing picky eating takes a lot of experimenting. Children might have different preferences at different ages, and you need to test different methods to figure this out. Maybe try frozen veggies and fruit over steamed. Teach your kids from a young age what different textures mean, so they can express it to you. 

The 5 P’s of Picky Eating 

Katie has a very popular Ted Talk called “Picky Eating Isn’t About the Food.” She covers the 5 P’s of picky eating. They are palette, pain, processing, pressure, and power. 

The first three p’s are completely physical. They are a part of a child’s body that they can’t fix themselves. Palette is how a child chews. If a small child stays with purees for too long, it’s going to interrupt their palette. An interrupted palette slows the path to chewing and swallowing. If their palette is only used to purees, their palette will be more resistant to try hard, real food. If you are using pouches a lot, try to mix it up. You don’t have to go cold turkey, but Katie suggests only using pouches on-the-go, and not at home. Remember that quick, easy and cheap isn’t the recipe for success.

The “pain” of the 5 p’s has to do with how a child’s body reacts after food. Sometimes they hurt after they eat and they don’t know how to explain it. It has nothing to do with food but has to do with their body. As a parent, you have to remember that it’s not your fault, and it’s not the food’s fault. 

The next p, processing, is about how your child interacts with the world. Every child can process the world in a different way. Sights and sounds can impact eating. If your small child is pulling away from food, they may be in sensory overload.  Katie says “understand your kid doesn’t have a problem with food, their senses are making it a struggle to interact with the world.”

Can Parenting Cause Picky Eating?

For the next p, pressure, Katie offers some great words of advice – “your parenting style cannot cause picky eating.” What a relief! But, you can make it worse or better based on your decisions. When you apply pressure to your child’s eating habits, that can create picky eating as a result. Once a child hits 1-2 years, they realize that they are separate from their parents and test boundaries with their control. As a parent, we need to figure out how to have the right amount of power with food. Katie advises that as parents, we choose the food, and let the child choose the kind (frozen, steamed, chopped, whole) and how much. For example, if we tell our children that they HAVE to eat 3 bites of broccoli, it turns into a power struggle. 

What to Do If Your Child Refuses Dinner

One of the biggest questions parents have for Katie is what to do when their child just refuses dinner. Katie has a few tips. First, do not feed your child after dinner with different food. You can save their uneaten plate, but don’t offer them a sandwich, snacks or dessert to fill their stomachs after refusing dinner. Second, you can require just one bite on their plate. Don’t overwhelm them with a whole serving of brussel sprouts. Give them just one bite on their plates. Another option is to set a timer for your child. Say they have 10 minutes left to eat and if not, they can eat in the morning. 

Remember that any time we make a situation stressful at the table, we’re sabatoging what we want to do anyway, which is encouraging eating. Any exposure to a new food helps. Getting exposure to new food is how children develop a relationship with food. Do this by having them help prepare the food. Have them help set the table. If they are old enough, have your child serve themselves. This gives them power with eating. Katie says “if your child is stressed when eating, they aren’t building a healthy relationship with food.” As parents, we need to keep strong poker faces during stressful mealtimes. We don’t want our children to feed off of our stress. 

Power Struggles in Picky Eating

The last “p” of picky eating is power. Avoid power struggles when it comes to picky eating. Kim shares her own example with one of her daughters. When her daughter was struggling with picky eating, Kim would sit next to her and feed her. Her daughter knew that she had the power in this situation. Kim decided it would be best to not sit next to her daughter at dinner. 

When we find ourselves in the middle of a power struggle with picky eating, it can cause extra stress to our kids. Kids need to feel a level of control when it comes to eating. This goes back to an earlier thought from Katie – parents choose the food and when, and kids can choose how much and the presentation. 

Katie’s Courses for Picky Eating

Katie has started the Kids Cook Real Food online eCourse. She also runs a 5 day no picky eating challege. The goal of all her courses and challenges is to help kids build a better relationship with food. She also offers a picky eating membership that digs into the real problems of picky eating and offers lifelong solutions.

Connect with Katie 

The Sleep Lady®

The Sleep Lady is a brand, founded by Kim West, focusing on gentle sleep and parenting solutions. For over 25 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of families get the rest they need, without leaving their children alone to cry it out. While we focus on sleep-training, we provide resources and tips for parents to help schedule their child’s day, feedings and more.

Want to Be a Guest on The Gentle Parenting Show?

Do you have expert advice that you know would just be a game-changer for today’s stressed out parents? Then we want you to be a guest on the Gentle Parenting Show! Together, we’ll break down today’s top parenting advice in a fun and laid back style. Busy parents don’t have the time to sit down and read all the parenting books out there, and together we’ll break down the best tips and help them become empowered in their parenting skills.


The Gentle Parenting Show, created by Kim West - The Sleep Lady

In the Gentle Parenting Show, Kim West will interview parenting experts on everything from mindfulness to developmental milestones and how it relates to gentle parenting. Kim West is a LCSW-C, bestselling author and founder of a world-renowned gentle sleep training method. She and her team of Gentle Sleep Coaches have helped over 1 million families find gentle sleep through her courses, best-selling book and 1:1 coaching. Kim is the only baby sleep expert out there with 25-years of experience, and she’s seen everything when it comes to parenting.