Sneaky ways to get your picky eater to try new things

If meal time in your house is a savage battle between the broccoli and mac and cheese, then read this! Before you cave in and dish up the same meal over and over, get a respite from the constant food fights and try these sneaky ways to get your picky eaters to stop being so, well, picky!

Picky eater

After you label your child as a picky eater, it can be easy to ride this label all the way down the mac and cheese aisle, week after week. Rather than feeling defeated by a picky eater at the table, take this advice.

The key to coping with a child’s picky eating is patience, says nutritionist Sue Gilbert, M.S. She explains that the following picky-eating behaviors are normal:

  • Children go on food “jags” where they seemingly eat only one food.

  • Children need fewer calories than you think — which means that they may be full when you think they’re being finicky.
  • Children are separatists who typically like their foods individually, not combined or even “touching.”
  • Children are wary of new foods. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer them new things to try, but keep your expectations low and your attitude upbeat when you do.

Picky Eater pointers

Knowing this helps, but what do we do from here? Here are a few tips to make meal time easier and to keep you and your kids both happy and healthy at the dinner table.

1Get your kids in the kitchen

Kids love to help out, so let them join you while you cook. This allows them to feel like they have a part in preparing what they eat, which gets them interested in trying their creations. Find things that are easy and manageable for them to do. Let them spread the peanut butter, add the cheese or wash the fruits and veggies. And don’t forget these tips for cooking with kids!

2Give them choices

Young children are wage a constant battle for independence. Try giving them a few healthy choices and let them make the final decision. For example, “Do you want to add some strawberries or blueberries to your cereal today?” By doing this, your children feel like they’re calling the shots and don’t feel forced to eat your “yucky” healthy foods. Be sure to offer these 10 healthy foods for kids.

3Hide the healthy stuff

Using vegetable purees to hide nutritionally rich foods in your child’s favorite meals not only provides them with the good stuff they need, but also gets them used to new tastes and flavors that they might otherwise be scared to try. Try blending a can of pinto beans or some squash into your child’s favorite spaghetti sauce; they’ll develop a more sophisticated palate without even realizing it. For more ideas like this, check out Jessica Seinfeld’s recipe book called Deceptively Delicious.

Have a picky toddler? Try these toddler tips!>>

4Keep it in their comfort zone

If you’re dealing with a picky eater, it’s best not to bombard them with a plate of completely new foods. Try pairing a new food with one of their old faves. They may be more willing to dive into those veggies if they’re paired with their good old chicken nuggets.

5Teach by example

Our children are always watching what we do and striving to be more like us. Don’t expect your kids to eat a plate of cauliflower while you’re standing in the kitchen eating a bag of chips. Make healthy choices for yourself and your kids will catch on. Try this mom’s 5 fun ways to get kids to eat healthy foods.

Exper tips

If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Remember, patience is key, and in most cases, it takes 10-15 exposures to a new food for a child to feel comfortable with it. If your first attempts fail, don’t get frustrated, simply wait a week and try again. The more your child is exposed to the food, the more likely they’ll be to give it a try.

More nutrition tips for kids

10 Healthiest foods your kids need to be eating
Supplements for your children’s health
Feeding your child athlete