Ten Tips for Dealing with Picky Eaters

By Michelle Dudash | September 15, 2015
Michelle Dudash, Clean Eating for Busy Families
Fair Winds Press, 2012

I did all the “right” things while my daughter Scarlet was a baby: breastfed, made homemade baby foods in a variety of unconventional flavors, and pureed adult meals that she gobbled up. Then she turned two and became much choosier. Some tricks that help overcome pickiness follow.

1. Don’t Give Up. Continue to offer, not force, a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it! Eventually, your child will probably surprise you.

2. Make Snacks Count. As much as your child may beg for butter crackers, offer him nutritious foods such as grapes and cheese. At least if he doesn’t eat his dinner, you know he received nutritious food prior.

3. Offer Fruit at Every Meal. That’s one healthy food most kids will eat.

4. “Healthify” Favorites. If she loves fast-food chicken nuggets, try [making] baked salmon nuggets. The crunchy crust fooled Scarlet!

5. Offer Vegetables First. The period prior to dinner is an excellent time to break out the vegetable snack sticks and dip. If he is hungry, serve it and he will come.

6. Pair It with a Dip. Everyone loves to dip. Pairing a new food with your child’s favorite dip may serve as the bridge to get him to eat the foreign food.

7. Have Whisk, Will Try It. Involving your child in the cooking process will increase the chances of her eating healthier. At age two, a child can start adding and stirring ingredients. Scarlet wouldn’t eat pancakes until the day she got to pour the ingredients into the bowl and mix the batter. Now she begs me to make whole-grain pancakes with her. Even allowing a child to sprinkle cheese over a dish for a finishing touch will give her a sense of empowerment.

8. Size Matters. Shredding, dicing, slicing, and pureeing vegetables into a child’s favorite foods are excellent ways to get his palate accustomed to new flavors.

9. Keep the Junk out of the Trunk. Save the “unclean” treats for special occasions, if you must serve them at all. If it’s not in the house, your child can’t torment you with incessant begging.

10. Be a Positive Role Model. Since a child mirrors the actions of role models (that’s you) in her life, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make healthy choices in front of your child. Guess what Scarlet’s favorite snack is (besides mini cheese crackers, of course): pistachios! And she devours hummus, a favorite afternoon snack of mine. “Programming” your child’s taste buds and preferences early sets the stage for a lifetime of good eating habits.

Excerpted from Clean Eating for Busy Families, Fair Winds Press, 2012