Combat Picky Eating! Our Top Tips to Get Kids to Eat (Almost) Everything

With five kids under 10 between us, Vicky and I have some picky eating years under our collective belts. We run through our top tips at our workshops and also wanted to share them with you here. Consider it a PSA!

These are our best practices on how to engage with your kids on food and to help kids mature into healthy, sensible eaters. We would love to hear from all of you- please share your tips, too!

  • Don’t force your child to eat or offer bribes. Young kids will eat when hungry.
  • Resist the temptation to give in and offer foods that are less healthy, which could lead to picky eating. If your child knows there are other options, he’s more likely to refuse what’s being served.
  • Stick to a schedule. Serve meals and snacks at the same time every day. Avoid offering juice, milk or snacks within one hour of mealtime.
  • Continue offering new foods. Children often need repeated exposure to a new food. Encourage your child by talking about a food’s color, shape, smell and texture.
  • Make mealtime fun. Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into fun shapes. Use playful sounding names (“x-ray vision carrots” or “power punch broccoli”).
  • Let your kids help “cook!” Ask your child to help pick fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods at the grocery store. Make a game of it. At home, involve your child with meal preparation. Let them stir sauces or measure ingredients. Name a food your child helps create ie: “Amelia’s Salad.”
  • Involve your children in menu planning and grocery shopping.
  • Be a role model. Eat a variety of healthy foods and your child will imitate your behavior.
  • Get creative. Add chopped broccoli or shredded carrots to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with berries, or mix grated zucchini and squash into casseroles and soups.
  • Remove distractions. Turn the television off and don’t allow books or toys at the table.
  • Don’t offer food as an incentive. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is a reward, which may only increase your child’s desire for sweets. Select one or two nights/week as dessert nights and skip it the rest of the week—or serve fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
  • Don’t offer too many choices. Preparing a separate meal for your child after she rejects the original meal may encourage picky eating. Keep serving healthy foods until they’re familiar.
  • “No Thank You” bites: Encourage—but don’t force, cajole, bribe—kids to take one bite, if they don’t like it, they can say “no thank you” and move on.