Sharon Hoerr, a professor of food science and human nutrition at Michigan State University, and colleagues said overtly restricting certain foods from a child when others are eating them at mealtimes can lead to unhealthy eating.
"Mothers should stop forcing or restricting their kids' eating," Hoerr said in a statement. "They'd be better off providing a healthy food environment, adopting balanced eating habits themselves and covertly controlling their children's diet quality by not bringing less healthy foods into the house."
Parents could maintain regular meal and snack times and offer smaller portions of healthy foods, allowing children to decide how much they will eat, Hoerr suggested.
"With picky eaters, it's best to coax and encourage them to eat rather than yell at them," Hoerr said. "Other ways to get them interested in having a balanced diet is to take them to the grocery store or garden, and help them select new foods to taste as well as allow them to help cook at home."
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.