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Picky Eater? Problem Solved!

Updated on October 10, 2012

When you're faced with a picky eater it can sometimes feel like an impossible task to get the proper nutrition into your child. You want them to eat and at the same time, you want them to eat right. Your child isn't going to be at his/her best if they are living off of white bread and chicken nuggets alone.

So how do you go about getting your child interested in other foods? Is there an easier way? Trying to force your child will only reaffirm that the experience is something they would rather stay away from. In order to be successful at converting your picky eater you'll need to get the eater to come to the food.

Let's take a look at some of the ways you can introduce food to your child in a way that will keep them coming back for more!


Make Believe:

Kids are all about imagination! If you're trying to get your child to try or eat broccoli, try telling a fantastic story about a tree eating giant. Then, you and your child can pretend to be tree eating giants. Act silly! When it's fun your child will be far more willing to play the game of make believe. He isn't eating broccoli, he's a tree eating giant eating a tree!

Does your child have a favorite cartoon? Is this cartoon an animal? Perhaps it is a rabbit who loves carrots, or a dog who loves bones, maybe it's a girl who wears a berry as a hat. You can use this! When you present a dish that your child's favorite character would or does eat, your child is much more inclined to want to model his/her eating habits after them.

I remember when my children were obsessed with some show about super hero animals that lived in a classroom. When they finished a mission they would celebrate with celery, and on one occasion they had celery soup. My kids couldn't wait to have celery as a snack after that show because they were having the same thing their favorite characters enjoyed. What was even better, I made celery soup and they loved it!

Another trick I used that worked well was turning food into something else. We would put chopped peppers of various colors on a cracker smeared with ranch dressing and call them pizza. The kids got to make their own mini pizzas with red, orange, yellow, and green bell peppers (which they claimed to have hated until this point). I couldn't chop the things up fast enough! We've also turned celery with chopped veggies on top into school buses, pretending their mouth was the school or the garage. They enjoyed eating the buses full of children so much I wondered if I should worry!

Sneak it in!

Most kids love pizza... cheese pizza for the picky eaters. They don't want anything other than cheese on top of that pizza or they will pick it apart until it doesn't even look like a slice of pizza anymore! That's when you don't give them anything to pick off.

Take your blender and puree the onions, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, or anything else you want on top of your deluxe pizza. Turn it into a paste and mix it in with the sauce! My kids couldn't stop asking for my "special" cheese pizza. They said it tasted the best of all. I was all too happy to keep making it, since I knew that they were getting more than they thought they were. I even had a number of picky adults tell me that my cheese pizza was the best they had ever tasted. (Being sneaky is so fun)

Use this same trick with other sauces: add it to spaghetti sauce or when making a hot-dish. You can even whip some up and toss it into your mac & cheese, as long as you stick with the lighter colored veggies that won't discolor the cheese too much. Try yellow bell peppers, carrots, and onions in your mac& cheese.


A Rose by any other name....

Re-name your food! As goofy as it sounds, it works. Instead of calling them vegetables, use the specific name for each vegetable. My daughter used to say "I hate vegetables!"

I would say, "Well then, what do you like?"

She would say, "Oh, I like corn, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, but I hate vegetables."

Another little trick I learned was to call it "garden candy". Kids love candy. When you say the word their brains just scream "YUMMY!" To this day my children still ask if I have any garden candy for them.

Don't eat tomatoes, eat "poison love apples". That's what they used to be called, and it sounds so much more interesting. If your kids aren't thrilled with eating something "poison" just call them love apples.

Think of new and interesting names for your vegetables. Chop them up and create food art. If they look fun, your child will be more inclined to try them.


Kitchen Helper:

Kids love to get messy helping in the kitchen! When they get to help prepare the food they are more willing to eat something they made. When you sit down to the table swoon over how delicious it is and what a great job they did! Your child's heart will be filled with so much pride they won't be able to resist tasting their own creation!

Start simple to give your child a feeling of success. If he loves chicken nuggets, let him help make those first. If she loves pudding, have her help make that first. Put the pride before the tasting. By having them cook something they know they like first it builds confidence that they are a great cook. Then, when you have them help with something new, the confidence will be there that what they help prepare will taste good!


Just Desserts:

The word dessert offers up to deliciousness! If it's a dessert, it's special, it's tasty, and who is going to turn down a dessert? Not all desserts are created equal! You can toss a little special magic in the end of the meal that adds health and nutrition to your picky eaters diet.

  • Zucchini bread
  • Carrot bread or carrot cake
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Any fruit or berry pie

Switch to serving frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream, topping it off with fresh fruits or berries. Try a cup of sliced fresh fruits on their own! There are so many healthy and tasty treats you can whip up for the end of a meal that are more nutritious than "traditional" desserts.

How sweet is that! You'll have your picky eater saying "can I have some more please?" in no time!


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    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 5 years ago from USA

      It was my pleasure christen whalen :) Let me know what you try & how it works for you! I have more tricks up my sleeve when it comes to getting kids to eat, so I'll probably write at least 1 or 2 more hubs on the matter :)

      Thanks for your comment & good luck!

    • christen whalen profile image

      christen whalen 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      thank you so much for taking the time to write this hub! it's filled with excellent advice and hopefully it'll work with my son, haha!

      loved it!

    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks kimberlie33 I appreciate the comment & support :)

      Kids do things without realizing what they are doing sometimes; this is particularly important to understand when you're working with a picky eater. Sometimes it isn't a matter of food so much as a feeling of control.

      Another thing to try while working with these food tips, is to give your child more "power" over other aspects of their life/day; such as choosing their own outfit, which chair they get to sit in, what program to watch, etc. As small as these things seem to us adults, they make a big difference to a child, especially when they are going through phases of independence development.

      Good luck! & let me know how it goes.

    • kimberlie33 profile image

      Kimberlie Kacan 5 years ago from Brooklyn, NY

      I have a picky eater. In fact, I just put her to bed with only a few bites of dinner because she wouldn't even touch her plate. And one of the items, watermelon, is one of her favorite things! And she didn't even touch it!

      I'll be giving some of these tips a try. I'll try anything at this point! Thanks so much! Voted up.