Monday, March 18, 2013

helping a picky eater

Having a picky eater can be a real challenge. There are some children (and adults) that are putting their health at a real risk by eating only one or two things. How do you help a picky eater and encourage them to enjoy a healthy variety of foods? I have some suggestions below.  

© Sorinus | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

1. Don't be picky yourself. As a parent, you are the example for your children. If you are picky, they assume that they should follow suit and think that this is normal behavior. I have met families where the parents are picky eaters, they expect that the children to try new foods, yet they are unwilling to try new foods themselves. It does not seem to work.

2. Try it Tuesdays, new food Fridays etc. Pick a day to try a new food as a family. You never know; you may find a new family favorite. It does not have to be every week, but make it a part of the routine (every other Tuesday for example). A word of advice in this situation, make and enjoy a new food, but incorporate it in with foods that the family already understands and knows. For example. If you are going to try a new meat, serve side dishes that they love.

3.  Let the picky eater choose a recipe or new food to try. Letting them be in control can ease the tension and make trying new foods a more pleasant experience. Browse recipes together and let them help pick out the new food or recipe. My Nephew picked out radishes to try; who knew they are one of his favorite foods?  He did not know until he tried them.

4. Ask questions. One night at dinner, my daughter tells me she does not like the salad I made. Upon further investigation she was able to tell me that she does not like the strong flavor of raw onion in it. We made the salad again, we made it with a milder red onion and she decided that she liked it.  My son has a hard time with raw tomato and cooked green beans. It is a texture issue. I was able to talk with him and figure it out. Just a few days ago he asked if we could grow a bunch of green beans so that he could enjoy them raw. "when you cook them don't cook mine," he says. Which leads to my next point

5. It is the food, or the preparation technique? I love peas, but mushy, canned peas, I am not going to eat them.  Sometimes it is the food, and sometimes the way it is prepared. Beets for example, some people like them pickled and some like them plain. If you do not like the strong vinegar flavor, pickled beets may not be the way to go. I have a friend who likes cooked broccoli, yet she will tell you "raw broccoli tastes like grass." 

6. Everyone must try the new food. This is the rule.  You do not have to eat a whole plateful of the stuff, but give it a try. At our house, it is a bite for each year old that you are. (they are small 7,5 &4). Find something that works for you family.

7. You are allowed to not like things, but only after you have tried it at least twice.  Giving the child the option to try it and decide for themselves if they like it or not gives them real power over the situation. They need to know that you are not forcing them to enjoy it, you are just giving them an opportunity to explore new options. There is a study out there that says that you have to be exposed to a food twelve times before you can really decide if you like it or not. I think this is bogus. After twelve times some people will give up and eat the darn food; they will tolerate it, not like it.

8. Be patient all these things. It takes time. Some foods you may grow into. Mushrooms is an example for me. I did not think I liked them when I was younger, but now I enjoy them on a regular basis.

I hope this encourages you and your family to get out and try some new foods.


  1. thank you for this!! I have a picky husband, and there are some GREAT tips here even for him! :)
    Love your blog, have a wonderful week :)

  2. These are great tips for dealing with picky eaters! Thanks so much for sharing at A Humble Bumble :)

  3. With six kids, my mom was not about to cook one dish 8 ways for our family and we were all mmembers of the Clean Plate Club whether we wanted to be or not. So she used the "no thank you helping" method. She planned meals that, in general, we all liked. But if there was something that one of us didn't like, she only gave that person a "no thank you" helping (which was about 3 forkfuls). You HAD to eat that no thank you helping but it was tolerable. And it saved my mom's sanity not having to make special dishes at every meal. (It was funny 'cuz my dad had to eat his fair share of "no thank you" helpings too - and he couldnt' refuse, lest he set a bad example for all of us kids. :)