Tips For a Picky Eater

November 14th, 2016 | Mandi Mitchell 

Kids tend to be ‘picky eaters’ and if you have more than one child, chances are there’s at least one that makes you dread meal times. You know what I’m talking about; the moment when you place a perfectly proportioned plate of pure elegance that you took the time to prepare in front of your child only to receive the “plate push” as if you just had the nerve to serve them canned Alpo.

I have three sons, two are amazing eaters, and one is a ginormous pain in my ass when it comes to anything food-related. I don’t know how, but he lives on mac n cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly only. On occasion, I can get him to eat a yogurt cup or an apple but he just ‘doesn’t like anything else.’

Getting kids who tend to be finicky to eat healthy isn’t a simple task. Kids want sweets more often than not, and I can’t really blame them. I don’t think there will ever be a day where I would want to choose broccoli over chocolate.

A well balanced and healthy diet is always a concern for parents who have a child that refuses to consume any fruits, vegetables, dairy or meat. Trying to keep our kids in good health and not have them starve shouldn’t be so damn frustrating. So, how do we make sure to get our picky eaters to broaden their horizons? To consume the foods that will put them in and keep them in good health? How do you get your toddler who has such a ‘refined’ palate to eat the right foods for proper nutrition?

Check it out. Some things listed below have worked and some have failed miserably for me but hey, all kids are different. So until your child’s taste buds mature, here are some things you can try:

First and foremost, DON’T force your kid to eat anything they don’t want to. Telling them they have to finish everything on their plate or they don’t get dessert, for example, only creates a power struggle. Kids have little to no power as it is. They really don’t make their daily decisions and the food is the only thing that they have any kind of control over. Once you force certain foods on them, you could be creating a bigger problem than you’re already facing. Be patient!

Stick to a routine.

Try to feed your kids snacks and meals around the same time every day. Nothing to big of a snack, because you want them to be hungry come lunch and dinner. Don’t offer so much juice and milk in between meals. They’ll fill up on liquids and further refuse food. My son Carson had that little game figured out for a while now. He always says he’s dying of thirst and wants juice and then come dinner time, he’s full. Juice in between meals and with snacks stopped once I caught on. My kids get chocolate milk with breakfast, juice with lunch and water throughout the day, during dinner and before bed.

Try serving small portions of NEW food.

This allows them to eat something new without getting overwhelmed to finish a big plate of something nasty they didn’t want in the first place. Maybe your child hates green veggies, so try serving a small amount of them with something they like.

Mix new foods with favorite foods.

If your kid loves the blue box Mac n Cheese try putting some cut up broccoli pieces in there. If they love those frozen dinosaur chicken nuggets try making homemade ones instead. My kids love pizza so, I made homemade chicken parmesan and told them it was chicken pizza. Same ingredients right? They loved it. Add little chunks of tomatoes or mushrooms or onions to your pasta sauce. You get the idea.

Make it fun!

Cut food into shapes. Use a bunch of different colors (carrots, broccoli, squash, tomatoes). Try different presentations. Link foods to your child’s interest. If they like breakfast, do something out of the ordinary, serve breakfast for dinner. If they like dinosaurs, get cookie cutters and cut their food into those shapes. If they like Bugs Bunny, give them a whole carrot rather than the baby ones. I just saw a great idea the other day, one mom puts certain foods on kabob sticks which she said worked great! Make eating fun, they’ll be more likely to at least taste or try something new. Progress is progress no matter how small.


Let Them Help.

Let them pick out some healthy choices at the food store. Let them help you prepare it. Let them safely help you cook it. Doesn’t seem like it would do much to help, but giving them a little control over what they eat and letting them prepare it might make the odds of it eating it better.

Stop Stocking up on Junk Food.

If you don’t want your child eating so much unhealthy food, there’s one extremely simple thing you can do to prevent it. Stop buying it! If it isn’t available they can’t consume it. If sweets are desired, buy more juicy fruit like apples, pineapple, grapes, etc.

Spreads, Dips, Sauces.

When trying to get your kid to eat fruits and veggies, try giving them something to dip it in. I love some of my veggies dipped in ranch dressing, cream cheese dips, and Greek yogurt dips. Others are amazing with cheese or garlic olive oil sprinkled with parmesan. Things like peanut butter and yogurt are delicious with fruit. Have fun with it! Giving them something little on the side to mask the bitter taste could do wonders.

Don’t Do Made to Order.

This isn’t Ma’s Restaurant you’re running. Food cost money and preparing it is time-consuming. Making something special will only enforce the fact that they don’t have to eat what you’re eating because you’re going to make them something else anyway to avoid dealing with the stress. Instead of making their plate, try serving dinner buffet style. This will allow them to pick and choose the type of food you’ve prepared and the portion they want.

Good luck parents! Hopefully, some of these tricks work for you. I’m still testing them out myself.

About The Writer: Mandi is a millennial mom of three handsome boys, who keep her on her toes! Parenting is a new adventure every day, and she is comically sharing these experiences with us. You can also check out more of Mandi’s work here:


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