A picky eater is not something any of us hope for. The suppertime battles. The worry over whether or not they’re getting what they really need amidst the macaroni & cheese and chicken nugget meals. So how can a parent encourage their child to eat the rainbow without enduring tantrums and tears? Read on, because I have four fool-proof strategies I’m certain you haven’t tried yet.
Change the Presentation
A picky eater can have their mind changed easily. I know, that sounds crazy. But hear me out.
My oldest daughter hated carrots. No way, no how, was she going to chow one down. And I don’t blame her. Cooked carrots have a texture I can’t stomach myself. Raw carrots feel like “too much” in my mouth very quickly.
But one day while browsing my local grocery store, I found something called “petite cut” baby carrots. We’re all familiar with baby carrots; but even baby carrots can be fat and too “mouth filling” for a texturally-averted child. These petite cuts are very slim, so it doesn’t overwhelm her mouth. I took a chance on them, and guess what? She now loves carrots — as long as they are cut slim. Which is literally no skin off my back! All I need to do is grab the bag that says “petite cut” and we’re good-to-go.
In terms of carrots, there are so many options. My kids go crazy for matchstick-cut carrots, so you can also try grating them for your carrot-hating child.
Did you know small cucumbers exist? Well, they do! And while my kids were originally leery of cucumbers, the introduction of “cute, little” cucumbers were all they needed to be willing to take a taste. Now they are willing to eat both little and big cucumbers.
Another note on cucumbers: mine find them to be a “treat” when I allow them to eat them whole. And not just the mini cukes; the bigs, as well. It is crazy to me, but my kids have been known to put away an entire cucumber if I let them gnaw on it.
Raw vs. Cooked
I really encourage you to explore different ways of cooking your vegetables. Some kids may prefer them cooked or roasted, while others may find that texture off-putting. Three of my four kids adore raw veggies, while the other much prefers hers cooked. Sometimes it’s all about how a food “feels” in their mouth. Cooking them (or not) completely changes the texture.
In our house, steamed broccoli is a favorite. However, raw or broccoli roasted in the oven are a hard pass for the kids. Keep these things in mind as you present veggies that have gotten a big “N-O” in the past.
Also present in our family is a child who is not even a little crazy about cheese. However, if I change the presentation of the cheese and shred it? He’s all over it! What can I say? Kids are weird.
Make it Fun & Hand Them a (little plastic) Sword!
I am not here to recommend you make a cute face out of the vegetables on your child’s plate. Let’s be real: a picky eater will not be wooed by a clown face made with a cherry tomato nose.
Instead, consider giving your child a toothpick to eat with. Sounds crazy, but it really does work. Consider a bag of mixed veggies (our favorite is the combination of peas and carrots). The pieces are cut into little bites, perfect size for sticking a toothpick into. And how often do we give our kids toothpicks? Um, never. So the novelty of offering that just might be enough to get them to pique their interest.
Bonus idea: use those little plastic swords! Even better.
Bonus benefit: fine motor skill practice!
Give Your Picky Eater a Knife
A few years ago, Santa brought each of my kids knives for their stockings. Sounds crazy, but I assure you, they are one of the best gifts the big guy in red ever brought
The kids are always begging to help in the kitchen, which is why I wanted these for them. What I hadn’t anticipated was the help in the “picky eater” realm because of it.
Every Sunday night is homemade pizza night in our house. My husband and I prefer green peppers on our pizza. While I would cut one up for our pizza, the kids were always interested in doing the same. Initially, it was just a fun pastime for them; I’d split one green pepper into big chunks and let them cut to their heart’s desire. It was cheap entertainment, and they loved it so much.
Over time, however, they get more “comfortable” with the veggie. And slowly, they started to taste test it. A nibble here, a bite there. But those little “taste tests” turned into eating a strip they had cut. And that turned into eating the entire section I gave them. And now? One of my boys will cut and eat a whole green pepper on his own. Pretty awesome.
This is generally true about most vegetables I’ve allowed them to cut. It gives them that opportunity to get used to a veggie. The way it smells, how it feels in their fingers, the way it squirts as they cut. It’s all a great precursor to actually eating it.
And Again… Presentation
I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy lunch options for the kids. But oftentimes, those quick, easy solutions aren’t necessarily the healthiest. However, one of the kids’ favorite (and mine!) lunches is “cheese and crackers”.
Now, don’t be fooled by the name. While there is cheese and there are crackers, the lunch is far more diverse than that. When it’s all prepped and ready, over half of our lunch is raw veggies.
Originally, I put together each child’s plate with them in mind. I know which veggies each child prefers, and would customize their lunch to fit what they eat. However, I’ve since altered that plan. While they were decent eaters in that format, I found they were so much more brave if I presented their food on a platter.
It is shocking to see what kids will choose when given a choice. While expecting to see them pick only cheese, meat and crackers, the first thing they reach for tends to be favorite veggies. I don’t push the issue or make any suggestions. Instead, I try to keep my mouth shut and let their bodies do the choosing. Vast majority of the time, by the end of a meal our tray is void of all veggies; only a few crackers, pepperoni, salami and some cheese remain.
Start ’em Young
I know, I know. This is a fifth point in a blog post that touted four, but it is worth mentioning. If you have a picky eater as well as a baby, you should check out a feeding strategy known as “baby led weaning” (BLW). BLW is a way of introducing your baby to food by allowing them to explore food in its whole form rather than as a puree. While this doesn’t guarantee a fabulous eater in the future, it does expose babies to a variety of textures at the earliest “food” eating time.
No one wants a picky eater.
But, we all seem to have at least one. My hope is by trying one of these strategies, you can find one that works for your family. And once you do, I wish you far fewer food battles than ever before.
And don’t forget to pin for later — you don’t want to lose these ideas!
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