Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

My Child Won’t Eat!  4 Ways to Teach a Picky Eater to Love Variety.

“I don’t like this.”

“I don’t eat things that are green.”

“Do I have to eat that?”

I bet these are statements you hear regularly from your picky eater.  Or maybe your child is younger and doesn’t talk much yet or has speech delays and they just shut their mouth and push the food away, shaking their head no.  It seems that many kids become a picky eater at some point.  What happens when those kids are preemies or started off sick and need good nutrition to grow?  We can’t force our kids to eat, so what do we do?

I’ve been there.  We have 4 kids who have all gone through picky stages; some are still in that stage.  They don’t like vegetables, or they don’t like fruit, or they don’t like meat.  Here are 4 tips for helping to overcome the picky eating.

Get Creative: I think the most common thing kids don’t like are vegetables.

  1. Never stop offering a variety of vegetables to your kids.  You never know when they might give it a try and like it.
  2. Offer dips.  Most kids love to dip their food in something.  I have learned that even if it sounds like a gross mix to me, if it gets them to eat it, go for it.  If you are one who doesn’t like all the preservatives in ketchup or dressings you can make your own.  There are many recipes online for those.
  3. Last veggie tip, hide them!  You can hide vegetables in things like meatloaf or meatballs, sauces, mac and cheese, soups, even brownies!  A food processor or blender is a must for this.  Some days my kids have no idea how many veggies they have eaten!
Hepling my picky eater love eating.

Enjoying food.

Most of these same tips can be offered for kids who don’t like meats or fruits.  Child 3 for us does not like meat.  Of course he was the underweight child who needed protein!  Protein can be found in places other than meat, which we found helpful.  Lentils, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt are some other good sources of protein.  But again, don’t stop offering them meat, someday they just might come around.  Offer dips.  At one point our oldest would ask for 4 different dips with his meals.  I was just happy he was eating!

Pinpoint the Reason: Kids can be a picky eater for many reasons.  If you can pinpoint what your child’s reason is then you can figure out what might help.

  1. If they don’t like the texture, try raw veggies, or different cuts of meat.
  2. If they don’t like the color try different veggies/fruits that are colors they like, or try to relate that color to something they like.  We used to tell our son that eating green things would make him more like The Hulk; it worked for a while!
  3. If it’s taste try to find ways to change the taste like dips or cooking with different seasonings.
  4. Also take your picky eater to the store with you.  Shop together and then go home and cook together.  Kids are more likely to try and eat something they helped pick out and make!
Jacob enjoying a sandwich.

Jacob enjoying a sandwich.

It’s a Stage: A picky eater rarely stay picky forever! Growing up, my brother only ate chicken, hot dogs, and ‘flat chicken’ (pork, but my parents told him it was flat chicken to convince him to eat it).  As an adult now, he eats pretty much anything.  Remember, this is a stage. Never give up offering healthy food choices for your kids.

Be the Model: One last thing, if you eat healthy they will too. Our children, when young, want to be like us and will follow our lead with food choices. So be the model!

Julie Cruz About Julie Cruz

Julie Cruz (PA) is a stay-at-home-mom to four wonderful children and she enjoys spending her days with them. She and her husband are currently in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. She loves volunteering in the NICU as a mentor mom, conversing with other parents and bringing them special surprises. She is the author of “Tiny Feet,” a book about her NICU journey and things she learned along the way.

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