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How to Get a Fussy Eater to Love Their Food

Updated on March 1, 2019
Lady Lorelei profile image

Mother of two girls & grandmother to 6. My life is blessed with a wealth of giggles and hugs. Writing is my hobby, my work, and my play.

More Receptive are Hand Held Foods Like Watermelon Tacos and Corn on the Cob
More Receptive are Hand Held Foods Like Watermelon Tacos and Corn on the Cob | Source

Introducing New Foods to Kids

If you have children then you know exactly what happens when you put something they don't like onto their plate. The tantrum generally begins with loud moans, groans, and whining. It ends with them pushing the offending food to the side of the plate and refusing to it.

Meals can be a real battleground when you are trying to get children to eat healthy foods or to introduce them to new foods. Toddlers can be especially bad for this. For a while I worried mine would starve before they would eat a vegetable or piece of fruit.

Fortunately as children grow they generally become a little more enthusiastic about eating but while they are in the toddler and preschool phase you sometimes have to use your wits to trick them into eating their healthier. Fruits, vegetables, and protein rich foods can be especially difficult for them to immediately enjoy. So let's sprinkle some magic onto the foods kids are more apt to refuse to eat.

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Some Foods are More Fun Than Others

Healthy food shouldn't have to be scary but for kids all these new things can be quite a challenge to accept. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to get your kid's meals to look like something they just may want to eat.

Kids don't often recognize raisins as a fruit or pickles as a vegetable so it is generally quite easy to get them to chow down on these. Corn on the cob, watermelon, berries, and dried fruit snacks are fruits and vegetables that children can be convinced to consume.

Mashed, baked, or fried, the versatile potato can be prepared in so many different ways and this may be the reason why children tend to like potatoes. Potatoes are actually quite rich in vitamin C so definitely no slouch in the nutritional department. When french fries are fried in healthy omega rich olive oil they are really not that nasty of a vegetable option to feed your children.

Juice and yogurt can be transformed into smoothies or popsicles. Some of the newer juices combine both fruits and vegetables into their mix and are available in an array of delicious flavors. One glass of juice provides a full serving of vegetables as well as one full serving of fruit.

Cookie cutters can be a parent's best friend. Fruits, vegetables, and sandwiches can be easily transformed into a friendlier shape. Chopping or styling food into fun designs will have your child more likely to try them out. It does not take much effort to press a sandwich into a fun shape or to turn mashed potatoes into a snowman or snow capped mountain.

Fruits and vegetables can easily be transformed into all manner of fun creations. Celery can be filled with peanut butter or cheese to give it more kid appeal. You can pop antioxidant rich raisins onto your celery topping to create Ants walking on a log or to style as eyes on a creature creation.

Changing the Shape of Food Can Make Eating it More Fun

Chop it Mash it or Hide it Inside Something

Learning to enjoy new foods can be difficult for young children which means that meals should always be a stress free zone. Kids will learn to like a food much quicker if they don't have to be afraid of seeing it placed onto their plate. Encourage them to try new foods but don't force your child to consume them.

There are quite a variety of portioned plates available in colorful shapes and designs that are specifically designed for kids. Have two or three available for your child to choose from at each meal. Having some control over their meal time selections helps alleviate some of the pressure that comes along with the introduction of new foods. Keep that stress to a minimum.

Kid friendly meals involve fun. Play is an important part of a child's learning and food is no exception to this rule. If you can make a meal time fun then they will be much more likely to want to eat it. You are only limited by your imagination so think outside the box.

What Age Group do You Think has the Pickiest Eaters?

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Easy Ways to Make Vegetables More Fun to Eat

Finger Foods are More Fun

There are quite a few meat, fruit, and vegetable foods that are quite chewy. These can be a lot of work for a small child to eat. When foods are chopped into smaller pieces they are much more likely to be looked on more favorably. The closer they are to looking like a treat or snack food the more likely they are to be eaten.

Cutting food into tiny more manageable pieces makes eating them less of a chore. It also increases the likelihood that they will be magically transformed into finger foods which for kids is a very big deal. Flatware can be awkward to use. It's a learning experience and it is another part of the dining process that can be annoying to a kid. Make those big bad dining problems go away, the trick to getting a picky eater to eat is to make that plate appear less threatening.

If it doesn't look like a fruit or vegetable is it still one? Sneaking those icky foods into ones that kids love can work. Pizza is a perfect example of vegetables that kids love to eat.

They have no idea that tomato sauce is actually good for them so shhhh! Don't tell. (Off the topic a bit, did you know that tomatoes are a fruit, and not a vegetable?)

Tomato soup, vegetable soup, spaghetti sauce, raisin oatmeal cookies, apple sauce, and jello salad are other foods designed to trick kids into eating their fruits and vegetables. Hiding foods inside one another is a sneaky trick that often works to get that fussy eater to chow down. It's the reason I love adding sauces to my plate.

A Variety of Options Gives the Child More Control Over Their Meal Time Choices

Children like to select the foods they choose to eat
Children like to select the foods they choose to eat | Source

What Tricks do You Use to Get Your Kids to Eat?

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It's Okay to Play With Your Food

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Sauces Can be a Parent's Best Friend

Hiding fruits and vegetables under sauce or providing a dip to dunk them in is a great way to get fussy kids to eat these healthy foods. Meats and vegetables can be easily served with a small side dish of gravy, cheese sauce, ketchup, gravy, salad dressing, or sweet and sour sauce.

For children a sauce generally makes any food taste better so serve up fruit and vegetables with a dunking sauce. Apple slices or strawberries can be accompanied by a caramel or chocolate dunking sauce to make them more fun to eat.


A chocolate fondu is a great way to get kids to eat all kinds of fruits. The more fruits for this dish the better so chop into small bite size pieces strawberries, bananas, apples, pineapple, and which ever other fruits you happen to find appetizing with chocolate.

© 2019 Lorelei Cohen

How Do You Make Your Meal Times Fun?

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    • renee21 profile image

      renee21 

      4 weeks ago

      Great article. My boyfriend really dislikes all vegetables. So, when we get married, I will have to blend them up into soups and stuff because he hates the texture of vegetables so much.

    • Lady Lorelei profile imageAUTHOR

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 weeks ago from Canada

      My youngest granddaughter is autistic so she has had quite a time accepting new foods. A major break through came when she started preschool where the teacher has a basket of fruit for the kids to help themselves to. Seeing the other kids eating apples and bananas opened her eyes to how appealing these fruits could be. In the grocery store now there is no passing by the fruits without her grabbing herself an apple. She also loves the cookie cutter foods I introduced her to. She picked up on those immediately.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      My 3 sons are grown, but I remember my oldest being picky about age 3 or 4 when I was still trying to introduce new foods. The other 2 were less picky. I think your cookie cutter idea is great. I use to bargain with the boy - If you want so and so you have to eat this vegetable. Very good article for thoe still struggling.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      7 weeks ago from USA

      Sauces often worked when my daughter was growing up. She dipped a lot of vegetables in ranch or honey mustard.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      7 weeks ago from Toronto, Canada

      Excellent article. Your suggestion to use cookie cutters to change the shape of food is one that would have worked in my house when the boys were young. But they weren't really picky eaters. I do know a few picky eaters in my extended family and I can't imagine having a child that fussy! frustrating. What I'm finding now as the kids are adults and young adults is that they're all different types of eaters; one is an ethical eating only, another is ok to eat anything, and so on, which makes meals challenging sometimes (but not often) - they're actually pretty easy to please even as adults. Now they're into very healthy eating. They prefer veggies and healthy food.

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