Top 10 Tips For Dealing With A Picky Eater

by Samantha on April 16, 2012

You’ve slaved over a hot stove only to be greeted with the following phrase: “I don’t like that!”

Your child has single-highhandedly quashed your plans while upping the ante in the never-ending family food wars.

“I’m done,” you shout knowing full well that you’re anything but done. There’s really no way that you’re going to let your precious baby leave the table and go without a proper meal, so like any parent worth their salt, you head back to the kitchen and, grumbling along the way, prepare yet another dish - one of which your child approves. You curse while you cook. That’s the way it goes.

Like all of us moms and dads who deal with “picky eaters” - children who have particular likes and dislikes when it comes to food, you’re likely worried, exhausted and downright irritated that you’re even having this conversation with your kid. I mean, really. Why don’t they just eat what you put before them, and call it a day?

If any of us had the answer to this question, we’d all be not only happier but a lot less stressed. A child’s mind is not easily parsed. In other words, the answer to why kids are “picky eaters” is not immediately apparent. Even so, there are ways of getting around the dreaded “Suppertime Blues“or breakfast worries, and being successful in having your kids eat the food that is put before them. It just takes some planning. Having to deal with yet another refrain of “I’m NOT eating that” can push even the most patient parent over the edge, and that’s not good. Accordingly, here are some tips and tricks for getting your picky eater to eat what’s on his plate, and then some.

1) Go For A Dip - For some reason, children - especially the smaller ones - love dipping food. You know - veggies and dip, chips and dip, etc. To get the little ones to eat, especially their vegetables, cut up fruit, veggies, etc. and add a flavoured dip to the mix. You’ll likely find a child who is much more willing to eat her food when it’s presented this way.

2) Hide and Seek - If all else fails, do the old hide and seek game and your little darling will be none the wiser. Using deception is often part and parcel of parenting and in this instance, it’s no different. Make a soup or stew, puree some veggies and/or meat and add the “offending” items to the mix. Pasta sauce is another great way of getting food into discerning tummies. Do what you need to do.

3) Sweeten the Pot - At the risk of getting heck from those who don’t subscribe to a little bribery, add a little sugar, I say. Not too much, and not enough to overpower the food or make it particularly unhealthy; just enough to make it more palatable for your child. This doesn’t have to mean pure refined sugar; you may want to try honey or a similar sweetener. Similarly other spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and child-friendly flavours will provide a more interesting option for a picky eater. Remember what they said about “sugar and spice?”

4) Something Old, Something New - Keep the familiar close at hand when feeding your picky child. They will be more likely to eat if you pair a food that they like with something that they are not sure about. For example, if you want to get your child to eat kale or spinach, serve it to them with something that they really like, such as scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich. Doing so will make the whole idea of eating this new food a lot more appealing.

5) Make it Interesting - Kids are particularly visual creatures and accordingly, will respond more positively to food that is made to look…well…interesting. Cut up vegetables and fruit into different shapes, arrange foods on the plate according to colour and size, and consider using different vessels to serve the food, e.g. a special plate, a cup or a cone. On a similar note, wrapping the food in a pita or adding it to a taco may be just what the doctor ordered in terms of getting your child to eat.

6) Portion Control - Like anything, don’t overwhelm. If you’re going to give your child a food where there may be some push-back in terms of its consumption, go slowly. Give your child a little bit to start, and let them know that they have to at least try the food that is before them. Having a smaller portion will make the whole exercise so much less overwhelming and

7) Lend a Helping Hand - Human nature dictates that the more involved we are to an activity or event, the more we will commit to following through with the task. In this instance, it’s eating. Kids are no different. Your child will be more likely to eat their food - even the items that they don’t like - if they are involved in its preparation. Make your child your “sous chef” and they’ll probably want to at least sample the food that you have both prepared.

8) Peer Pressure - When little Johnny sees his friend little Jerry eating his brussel sprouts, Johnny may have a change of heart. Or at least a thought that perhaps the dreaded vegetable isn’t so bad after all. Peer pressure, with all of its bad press actually works in some instances. This is one of them. Invite one of your child’s friends over for a meal and see if that will make a difference in what and how much your own child eats. I bet it will.

9) Steam Heat - Vegetables take on a decidedly sweeter flavour when steamed. Think carrots, peppers and most greens. Steaming these items will change both the texture and overall taste of the food which might make the difference between your child eating whats on his plate or not.

10) Butter - Lots of it. That is all.

Want some “live” tips on how to get your child to eat? Here’s a segment that I did for Rogers Daytime, where I provide tips and examples of what to do when dealing with children who are picky eaters:

VIDEO: How to Deal With Picky Eaters

So there you have it. Getting kids to eat the food on their plate can be a challenge but we as parents can stay one step ahead of them by using some of the tips above. How do you deal with a picky eater? What other tricks and tips do you use to get your child to eat? Answer in the comments below!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Margie April 17, 2012 at 5:01 am

I LOVE #10…….. and I will be using the points in this article when my little girl doesn’t want to eat…..


Samantha April 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

Margie - it truly IS always better with butter! ;)


Donna April 22, 2012 at 2:27 am

I love this list, but you know, my husband is the picky eater in our house.


Samantha April 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

So maybe you could try some of the tips with him? ;) You never know….


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