Giving Your Teen a Self-help Book About Picky/Selective Eating

Maybe you’ve given up hope. Maybe you decided fighting over every bite wasn’t worth it so your teen fixes a bowl of cereal or you pick up a plain burger and fries on the way home from work most nights. 

Maybe you are still trying the bribes, rewards, nagging, punishment tactics you’ve been doing for years.

Maybe you eat dinner alone and your teen eats and texts in their room.

Now there’s a new book, Conquer Picky Eating for Teens and Adults. We want your teen to have this book, that’s why we wrote it after all. We’ve heard from parents who are planning to buy this book for their teen. We’re glad… but we advise caution. For those of you who have read our first book (Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating,  geared towards parents of younger children) you’ll know we review that for most selective eaters, pressure to eat, even rewards and praise, doesn’t work.

So, how can you approach this topic of picky eating without your teen feeling it as pressure?


“It is normal for teens to seek independence from parents and this may include rejecting parental suggestions.”

Erin VandenLangenberg PhD

Ideally, we want teens to come to this work with their own motivations, to feel ready to take control of the process; to explore their past around eating, why they might have had picky eating that persisted beyond what is common for half of their peers. Turns out, temperament can play a big part. We’ve worked with countless families who shared how wonderfully independent and strong-willed their children could be (okay, they didn’t always say “wonderfully”) but you get the idea. As one mom said, “As soon as he sense our agenda, it’s over.” 

So if your teen is one of those who puts up extra resistance to anything that isn’t his idea or on his time frame, you may need to approach offering this book with caution.

Erin VandenLangenberg, a PhD psychologist working with teens with extreme picky eating and specializing in eating disorders shared these words of wisdom:

“Teenagers with selective eating may generally be resistant to another intervention to work on feeding issues, especially if they’ve been in eating therapies which previously haven’t worked. Also, teenagers are more prone to oppositionality within their developmental stage.  It’s what they do. Parents hoping to introduce this book to their teen should consider their teens’ readiness as well as consider timing the conversation. Teens who might be most ready for this book are:
  • those who express interest in expanding the foods they eat, perhaps by asking parents to make or buy something new
  • they may generally appear more open at the table during meals or snacks by inquiring about foods  
  • they may express dissatisfaction with how their selective eating is impacting their life
  • they mention feeling isolated because of their selective eating 

If a teen appears ready then parents might find it helpful to bring the topic of feeding up to their teenagers in low stress and non-food situations.  Parents who pressure their teens into treatment or into reading the book may find their teenagers likely to reject their efforts outright.  Starting by asking a teen about his/her interest in this new, open, and self-directed approach to improving their relationship with food would be a helpful way to initiate a conversation.”

Every family is unique, with different dynamics, so if your teen is ready for help, this will be easier. Here are some more ideas:

Good luck!

These can be difficult conversations. While your teen might not be ready the first time you bring this up, they might be ready down the road, and you’ve planted a seed. Check out our letter to parents of teens from Sky Van Zetten from Mealtime Hostage, consider joining her private facebook support group for parents, and check out our free PDF with tips for supporting teens with extreme picky eating.

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