Do you have a picky eater? It seems like every child is picky at some time or another. I know mine are! Some days I feel like I’m lucky if both of my kids are moderately happy with one meal. Here are tips and tricks plus recipes for picky eaters that are healthy and that the whole family will love.
How to help a picky eater to eat
We’ve all dealt with it. Here are some tricks for getting your picky eater to eat (without force feeding!).
Don’t dumb down food for kids
Many people are under the assumption that kids won’t eat anything but refined grains, cheese, and PB&J, which becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Every time we assume they won’t like something and change it to be more “kid friendly” (i.e. less healthy) they hear the message that they shouldn’t like that food and shouldn’t even try it.
My family went out to dinner one night with friends and I ordered a hummus platter for OG. Everyone was amazed that she ate it. One friend said “She has quite the refined palette”. Their reactions surprised me because this was normal snack food to me. I had been giving it to her since she was about a year old so it was normal to her too.
Kids learn to eat what they’re given. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t still get into ruts or have preferences, but I don’t expect her to hate everything that’s healthy, so she doesn’t. If we want kids to eat healthy, we have to stop dumbing down food.
I know that some nights I’m just not hungry for meat, but others I cant get enough. The same thing happens to kids and we have to respect that natural process. Instead of worrying how much of one food group he is eating, simply offer a variety of healthy foods. He will eat what his body needs if you offer the opportunity.
Eliminate crutch foods
But of course, your kids are never going to start eating more healthfully if they always have PB&J to fall back on. Eliminate it as a choice (get it out of the house if you have to) and your kids will have to eat something else if they are hungry.
During peak freak out times I’ll offer a small amount of a favorite food along with dinner so that OG feels like she has something she likes, but won’t get full from it. Then when she’s still hungry she has healthy food on her plate to fill her belly.
Don’t beg or plead
Trust that offering a variety of healthy foods and eliminating crutch foods will work. Trust your kids to follow their body. Getting into a power struggle is not going to help and may make it worse. I can’t say I always follow this tip because sometimes I just want her to eat a few bites of meat before I offer dessert but I do notice the difference. If I start saying “just eat 2 many more pieces” or “just finish your broccoli” then meals to her become “how many pieces until I don’t have to sit here anymore”.
Let them grow their own food
Anything we grow in our garden automatically becomes tastier and more interesting. Why not let your picky eater start a garden or plant a few things in yours? The pride of growing your own food outweighs the desire for sameness.
Recipes for picky eaters
The key to finding recipes for your picky eater is to keep trying new tastes, recipes, and ideas. Sometimes it’s just a matter of creating more variety or making food fun again. Other times it’s decoded your kid’s specific preferences. Maybe they like Mexican food without the chili powder or scrambled eggs with black pepper. The more variety they try the more they will like. These recipe ideas should help you find something new to try your picky eater on. Maybe one will become his favorite!
Breakfast can be tricky with picky eaters. Cereal was a staple in our house until I decided, no more cereal! When my kids eat cereal for breakfast they are hungry all day long but if I can get some protein and veggies into them then the rest of the day goes much better. Here are some yummy recipes that are nutritious but resemble the high sugar/high carb breakfast that many kids love.
Banana Nut Muffins – Subbing traditional baked goods with healthier versions is a great way to transition a stubborn eater to a healthier diet, more varied.
Coconut Chia Porridge – Who doesn’t love pudding for breakfast? This recipe adds lots of protein to a sweet breakfast.
Green Mango Smoothie – The tastiest way to get veggies into their breakfast.
These real food recipes are both nutritious and kid friendly. Add a side of carrot sticks to round out the meal.
Crepe Roll Ups (Paleo, GAPS) – Use it for any filling you can think of!
Healthy Variations of Grilled Cheese
Salmon Cakes (healthy fish sticks)
Sweet potato toast – Another vessel for filling or topping that is grain free.
Dinner can be tricky when kids are already tired from a long day and are less open to trying new things. Try to make healthier or slightly different versions of their favorite food so there isn’t as much resistance.
Thai Meatballs – Sauce makes everything good! This variation on spaghetti and meatballs is healthy and yummy!
Zucchini Fritters (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten free)
Maple Cinnamon Roasted Squash – A little sweetener can help anyone learn to love veggies
Chicken Liver Pate – Liver is an incredibly nutritious food but many of us have never even tried it or don’t like it. This recipe takes the nutrition of liver and makes it fun and tasty to eat. try it with some carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or crackers.
Probiotic Fruit Leather – Kids love fruit leather. Give them some variety with in season fruit.
Avocado Fudge Pops – Technically a dessert but nutritious enough to be a snack!
J&J Farm says
Another trick I do with my grandson…I was eating avocado and he said his father told him it was yucky. I said okay and and started making yummy noises and generally enjoying it.
He came over and asked for some, I told him no. You said it was yucky so you can’t have any. He started throwing a fit and begging please.
Ok, only if you stop you can have some. I had avocado mixed with olive oil, black pepper and red wine vinegar. After his first bite, he took the bowl away, sat down and finished it. Psychological. That’s all it is, took me 2 YEARS to get him to eat avocados!
As the picky eater in my house, there’s more to it. Textures and smells can be an issue besides taste. I still wouldn’t eat a lot of what you have listed (fruit can be worse than vegetables for weird textures and smells), but I do eat more than I used to. Making Chinese food works for me; I won’t eat cole slaw, but if you stirfry the cabbage mix with garlic and ginger I’ll eat the whole pan.
good point, textures and smells are definitely a concern for many picky eaters.