HELP: 10 Tips for Picky Eaters

by zesty on March 25, 2011 · 33 comments

We made it!  Friday is finally here and the weekend is upon us.  This week has flown by and for that I thought I would switch things up slightly and ask for your help.  I really want to know if you have any good ideas on how to cure picky eating syndrome.  I would love to hear your ideas.

The last little while I have been trying to get Cooking junior eating more – it seems like Kraft Dinner and peanut butter sandwiches are a staple in his diet.   I have been doing some searching and trying to come up with some of my own ideas.  Thus far, here is a list of what I have found as well as come up with.

10 Tips for Picky Eaters

1. Get them excited about healthy food:

Let them smell, touch, taste, ask questions and try fruits, veggies, yogurts along with other healthy foods in the kitchen. Ask them what they think of the foods and let them know their opinions count.

2. Get them involved in the kitchen:

Let them help you with jobs in the kitchen such as mixing ingredients, putting away plastic dishes, turning on the blender etc. Be sure to thank them for their help.

3. Give them a say in what they eat:

Help your kids make the right food and drink choices from an early age. If they have a say in decisions they will be more excited about what they eat. It’s a great way to get them to take charge of their health.

4. Take them grocery shopping with you:

Get your kids involved in shopping decisions. It may take a little more time in the supermarket but it will help them understand the food groups and the value of eating healthy.

5. Remove the junk food your house:

Your kids can’t eat unhealthy snacks if you don’t buy them. Kids will moan at first but soon they will get hungry and reach for the apple instead of the chips.

6. Add healthy food when you can:

Find ways to add healthy foods into foods your child already likes. You can put blueberries in pancakes, chopped fruit on cereal, or small pieces of broccoli in macaroni and cheese. Or add leftover veggies from the night before into your next meal.

7. Help them learn:

Encourage your kids to draw or doodle pictures of healthy foods or write a poem. Post it on the fridge and make sure they know you are proud.

8. Sit down together:

Try to set aside your meals as family time. Turn off the TV and enjoy eating together.

9. Keep healthy snacks on hand:

Bring healthy snacks where ever you go, and at other times when you know their stomachs will be grumbling.

10. Make healthy food and meals fun:

Try cutting up food into fun shapes or making faces out of fruit and vegetables.  Putting healthy snacks such as oatmeal cookies or dried fruit into a fun bag can turn healthy foods into a cool snack for your child.

Next time you are in the kitchen thinking about meal time or even simply talking to you children – try and incorporate some of the tips listed above.

Please send me your comments on fussy eater tips you have tried (even if you don’t have kids).  I want to try and get 50 tips by the end of tomorrow.  The pressure is on!

Oh and guess what?  Disney Recap on Monday and GIVEAWAY on Wednesday! Have a great weekend!

Take care


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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 VeggieGirl

Great tips!!



2 Godiva2

I grate carrots in my meatloaf and add chopped spinach in my lasagna.


3 Bob

Heh, I should try these out with my girlfriend. She is the pickiest eater I have ever known! :)


4 Mara @ What's For Dinner?

Great tips! Thanks!


5 Meg

Part of my job is working with picky eaters. The number one thing I can suggest is to go ahead and let the kids play with their food!!! I know it sounds funny, but I got a kid to eat green beans by putting sprinkles on them!! Another good tip is to add a little of the unliked food to a loved one. So…adding a fruit he doesn’t like to his PB sandwiches…start with a little and gradually increase.


6 Gera @ SweetsFoods

Agree true all of them. Kids copy the adult behaviors, if the adult eat healthy is easier to teach them!

Cory have a great weekend!


7 brandi

Great tips!

Don’t put your dislikes on your kids! Let them try everything and honestly decide for themselves.

I think having them help make things in the kitchen is one of the best ideas, too.


8 Pam

My tip is a little more general and is really just for sit down meals. My children are in a phase where dinner is just not something they want. Mostly because they don’t want to eat a meal, they just want to snack. (Oddly, the veggies and fruit are not hard to get them to eat, it is usually the meat I have issues with…)

If my kids want to stay up til bedtime they have to clean their plate. I only give them 2-3 bites of each item. This is what I tell them. “Your body needs energy so you can run around, play, and watch TV. If you don’t eat everything on your plate you won’t have the needed energy to stay up. You could get hurt without the right amount of energy, and since I don’t want you to get hurt, you will have to go to bed and rest.” So basically, they eat or they are stuck in bed. I have only ONCE had to send my oldest to bed for not eating. The most usual outcome is that they try the unwanted food, decide they like it, and ask for more. They also know not to ask for more until the whole plate is clean. They can’t eat 4 helpings of their cauliflower and no chicken… So they clean their plate than ask for more of whatever they want.

Sorry this was long!


9 HangryPants

I was the pickiest eater. I think one thing is to not make a huge deal about it. I was always told I was a picky eater – self fulfilling prophecy. Just present new things with old things as if nothing were different and I bet that would really help.



10 Danielle

We always had a rule in our house when the kids were growing up and that was that they always had to at least try everything. They didn’t have to ultimately love it or even like it but they had to at least try it. They both still do this even now that they’re grown and they have started to like things they didn’t use to because they’re palettes have changed as they’ve matured. I also snuck vegetables in wherever I could. Peas in the mac n’ cheese, spinach in the lasagna etc. Have agreat weekend Cooking.


11 Danielle

Oh! Also teaching them where their food comes from can generate a lot of enthusiasm. For instance letting them plant and take care of a small garden and enjoying a big salad with all the things they grew or taking them to a farm to pick apples or berries or whatever is in season and then have them help in the kitchen turning them into pies or jams.


12 psuklinkie

My fiance is a pretty picky eater. He’s very sensitive about textures, but I try to gently trick him into eating things he would otherwise find questionable.
Last night, for instance, I made half whole wheat pasta. I threw the (longer cooking) whole wheat pasta into the boiling water, then mixed in some regular pasta of identical shape when the WW was partially done. He had no idea that he was eating healthier!
I bake all our breads and snacks myself, so I have tons of control over how healthy our food is, even the “unhealthy” snacks. Our pies and crackers are made with part whole wheat flour and with slightly less sugar.
Even things that are irredeemably unhealthy, like ramen noodle soup, get a boost of healthfulness by using only 1/2 the seasoning packet and adding tons of veggies.
One thing that really seems to help with TheBoy’s finicky eating is that we buy all our produce together at the farmers’ market. He gets to meet the growers and pick out the foods himself. It seems like such a simple thing, but the beet greens seem less “slimy” to him when he knows where they came from.


13 Marianne

I have read that you may have to present a child with a particular food 10 times before they will decide to eat it. So just keep trying! And I say, be sneaky with those veggies. If your child like KD, put veggies in that. If you can’t get away with green on, puree orange or white ones and mix them in. They also need to see you enjoying all the same things you like to eat – kids learn from example.


14 Sara

Great tips! Luckily there aren’t any picky eaters in my house – at least not yet!


15 Erin

I have successfully come up with a method for getting my picky fiance to eat things he doesn’t like (or doesn’t know he likes because he refuses to try them). I tend to make most of my meals all encompassing. I don’t make a veggie and starch on the side, but rather make them in a way that I can mix everything together. I cook the meat (most often chicken) in whatever seasoning I’m hungry for, then mix in the veggies and later add in some brown rice or whole wheat pasta. I give everything a good mix and let the seasonings and flavors all mix together. This accomplishes quite a few things.
1-He’s hungry, and will not sit and pick out all of the finely chopped ingredients, but instead just eats the whole kit a kaboodle.
2-By adding different seasonings to the any ingredient, he often ends up enjoying veggies he never would’ve tried because they have seasoning of food he likes me to cook.
3-Finally, you can sneak in ingredients he doesn’t know about, and once he raves about how good it was, bring up the “but I thought you didn’t like [insert yucky food here]. It sure sounds like you liked it!” He is then more likely to try it again on its own!

This worked for me initially with mushrooms, which he hated and I LOVE!!!!. I liked to add them to dishes to cut back on the amount of meat we consumer. Now he’s a fan and we add them to everything. I’ve tried it with tons of veggies that were just “gross” and now he eats weekly.


16 carolinebee

I work at a summer camp e/summer…and also volunteered with elementary kids after school in LA during college. The kids were from low-income families, and literally ate only fast food- cheesy corn on the cob- or pork skin/rinds whatever (!) ALL the time…OH and hot cheetos! We would incorporate healthy snacks into our tutoring- like Ants on a log! We let the kids help make and enjoy the snack and also explained why the celery, PB, raisins, etc. are so important for a healthy and happy life!


17 Lynda

I have 3 children, all in their 20′s now. One was not very picky, she loved fruits and veggies. My 2 sons were very picky.Gardening helped my oldest son. He loved to help grow things!Our middle son is still picky at 25. they’re just not alike even tho raised the same!Good luck!


18 Joie de vivre

I employ all of your ideas, plus, I have the kitchen mantra of 1. Take it or 2. Leave it. Good luck!


19 Biz

All great ideas. Don’t give up – studies show that it may take a child 10 times to see a vegetable before they even try it!

Great tips! Have a great weekend!


20 Happy Herbivore



21 dessertobsessed

thanks for the tips; i’m a bit of a picky eater myself! but i really really really can’t throw away all my junk food…


22 Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter)

Thanks Cooking. Great tips as I constantly have people asking me how I eat so healthy and to help them do the same. I will definitely refer to this list often! Can’t wait for the giveaway. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


23 thepinkpeppercorn

Great post!! Nothing a little education can’t help right? Well, at least eventually, with a little patience. :)


24 sue

great tips! my boyfriend is a picky eater and i definitely use a lot of those methods. i know i’ve seen him pick up a piece of fruit out of desperation if there aren’t any other snacks at home!
my tip for picky eaters is to buy the best and freshest food there is (especially when it comes to produce). i think my bf has only tasted canned/frozen versions of certain vegetables and doesn’t now how tasty they can be. sometimes i’ll start off “easy” on him and cover a new veggie in cheese or butter because i know he will be more likely to eat it but after a couple times i can usually leave it off and he will still eat it.
if all else fails i trick him into eating healthy stuff with the help of a grater or blender :)


25 Pumpkin

When I was little, we were allowed to do whatever we wanted to our food- as long as we ate it afterwards. We could mix our carrots into the mashed potatoes, put ketchup on our veggies, whatever. The only provision was that we ate it.
We also had the option of making ourselves a pb&j if we didn’t like what was served- usually our desire to not have to make our own sandwich lead to us eating whatever was served for dinner!


26 Bridgett

I actually showed my kids a diagram of the heart and what can go wrong when you don’t eat well. Today they had an assembly at school regarding heart health, exercise and healthy eating, so it is in their minds now on what food can do to your body. Growing up, I wasn’t given the choice as we ate what was given to us. I worry for my son as he is so picky but I am slowly turning that around. Great post, by the way, it is much appreciated!


27 Jenny

As a picky eater myself, can I just thank you for not including any “hide it in their normal food” tips!!

My picky eating was made worse as a child by not trusting any of the food I was given!! Thankfully I have an understanding husband who I now trust to not give me things I genuinely don’t like just because he feels I “should” eat them!

To those of you hiding stuff in food, you’re likely to be doing more harm than good AND storing up psych problems with food for their futures!!


28 Marshall Cypress

Yeah… I can tell you have never had to actually put these tips to the test. As a child I was a very picky eater, and although I am not so picky as an adult I have a nephew who is a very picky eater and none of your tips would work on him. He would rather starve than eat something new, as a result he is incredibly thin. The only break through that has worked so far is bribery. He is a nut for model railroad trains. Only holding him back from obtaining these items unless he starts eating better has worked. My brother has a girlfriend who absolutely refuses to eat anything that is not cooked or fixed exactly her way. To the point that she has lost most of her teeth and has severe health problems.

Try again.


29 Ange

Hi Cuz,
Don’t underestimate the power of reverse psychology on little ones; our semi-picky 4yo has been trying anything and everything the last little while as soon as Daddy says “I don’t think you’ll like it….” *grin* I’d definitely second the allowing healty choices and playing with food tips.


30 Marion

I watch kids in my home who would rather eat processed pre packeaged food and I would rather not….I make an awesome homemade sauce and could never figure out why the kids would rather eat canned spaghetti instead. In my sauce I put veggies of everykind….Tomatoes, Tomatoe paste, peppers (red, green, yellow and orange) mushrooms (often chopped super fine and fried with hamburger) Celery, Onion and Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots…..when you throw broccoli, cauliflower and carrots into a food proccesor and chop til super fine, noone knows they are there:) I then add spices to suit the taste buds of my family….and they eat all of it. As for the kids, I take the sauce throw in a hint of brown sugar and puree it until it looks like it came from a can….slightly overcook the whole wheat noodles and toss it all together, they have no idea it hasn’t come out of a can:) and it is totally healthy:)
I agree that getting kids involved in the cooking and shopping process does wonders for having them try something….my son has done both with me since he was born and you can feed him anything:)
Good luck:)


31 cindy

Stop being a pushover when it comes to food.
I served 3 dishes. Like it, lump it or left overs.


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