Try This Secret Weapon Against Picky Eating
Help your kids turn the tide against picky eating… even if they’re not willing to taste a single bite of the healthy meal you made.
Here’s the scene: you’re a new mom, and it’s time for your baby to start solids. You buzz up a few homemade purees, then quickly move on to baby-led weaning with soft finger foods based on your family’s meals.
You discover that your baby eats everything. Success! You fill her tummy with healthy veggies, proteins, and whole grain foods. When your friends lament their struggle with picky eating, you sympathize, but secretly feel like you avoided their fate because you’re Doing It Right.
And then the honeymoon ends. Your toddler gets a little older, and wiser. She learns that some foods taste especially appealing, and others, less so. She tries wedding cake and Goldfish crackers and a handful of French fries from her uncle’s lunch.
Before you know it, she’s on a cracker jag. She’s not so interested in the homemade beef stew and the lentil soups she loved as a baby. Is this food green? Then good luck getting her to taste it, let alone allow it on her plate.
Watching your child’s list of accepted foods grow smaller and smaller can cause major anxiety. And because you can’t literally make them eat, you might feel helpless to coach them to more balanced eating habits. It’s tough. But it won’t last forever! And while you wait for your little one to branch out, you have a secret weapon that you can use every day to help your kids see healthy food in a positive light. EVEN if they’re not ready to actually eat it. Here’s what you can do.
Let Your Kids Watch You Eat Well
Specifically, share meals with your kiddos, and let them see you enjoy the healthy foods on offer.
It might not look like it from the outside, but kids typically WANT to eat the foods they see their family members enjoying. Behind all the whining and protests at dinnertime is a real desire to eat like mom and dad. (Just look at how their faces light up with pride and surprise when they learn to like a new food.)
The beauty of this strategy is that it can work to help kids overcome picky eating even without them taking a single bite of the food in question. The benefits of enjoying healthy food in front of your kids are fourfold:
- They learn that healthy foods are safe, normal, and delicious.
- The food you serve stays varied and balanced… which helps you avoid the trap of serving “kid food” for dinner each night.
- Healthy foods are available as soon as your child is ready to try them.
- You don’t have to worry about wasting food. If your kids don’t eat that you serve, you will.
Stay Positive about Picky Eating
It can be hard not to pressure your kids to eat what you make at dinner. You put time, effort, and money into the meal. But pressuring kids to eat can backfire, whereas modeling healthy eating never does.
You can still talk about the foods you’re eating, in a matter-of-fact way. Share your food vocabulary with your kids: is this food sweet? Salty? Crunchy, or creamy? Does it taste like another food they’ve had before?
In time, you’ll normalize the kinds of healthy foods you want your family to eat, and they’ll begin to outgrow their pickiness. With any luck, you’ll still have your sanity intact.
More Picky Eating Solutions
Get more help with your picky eaters! Read about how meal planning can help picky eaters. And learn 21 days of things to do with picky eaters.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie
Hey! Thanks for the article! My son i 26 months old and refuses to eat most veggies and fruits… It is frustrating.. I tried making fruit animals to attract him , but it was in vein… He refuses smoothies and only eats 3 types of fruits- melon banana and raspberries.. Do you have any suggestions? 🙂
Hi Dara! Picky eating can be incredibly frustrating. The good news is, the vast majority of kids will overcome picky eating as they grow. The key is to keep offering fruits and veggies, and don’t give up. You have the right idea with the fruit animals… being creative and serving foods in a variety of ways can make a difference (please don’t be discouraged that it didn’t work last time!) I will cross my fingers for you that your son starts to accept a wider variety of fruits and veggies soon. In the meantime, keep up the good work, and check out this article about one thing you can still do to help his progress, even if he won’t eat what you serve: https://www.superhealthykids.com/recipes/a-secret-weapon-against-picky-eating/