How do I get my picky eater to eat better?

Real Mom Problem

“What can I do to get my son to try new foods and make sure he gets enough fruits and vegetables? He is very picky, and usually won't even try new things!”

by kellydb44 kellydb44

Quick Tips

  • 1. Offer a variety of foods and have them try things multiple times
  • 2. Remember that it sometimes takes several tries for a kid to realize he likes something
  • 3. Let your kids get in on the grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking
  • 4. Be patient and talk to your child's pediatrician if you're concerned

Real Mom Solutions

Picky eating is a very common phase among grade schoolers, but how do you deal when it's your kid? See how these moms handled the picky phase!

Make Them Try It -- More Than Once

  • aetrom

    We do not do have our picky eater "bite," we say you must lick the food you don't like. They say it takes 14 times of being exposed to a food to know if you like it or not.

  • Powerstamper

    Children's taste buds mature as they get older and they will like flavors they didn't before, so we have a "try it once" rule in our home. If they try it this time and don't like it, they don't have to eat it all, but they don't get anything special either. They have to eat the other foods offered or wait until the next snack or meal time. Lots of times they find out that they do like it now.

  • bleumonster

    I think for picky eaters, you can give them mostly what they like, but keep trying with the things they think are yucky. My kids both have expanded their food choices over time. If they aren't made to try new things or things they used to not like, then their tastes may not change very fast.

  • truckincowgirl

    I have always allowed them three things they could have on an "I do not like" list. If that is on the plate, they can skip it. This has worked well. Then all of a sudden they started hating everything. Now they have to at least eat some of what is on their plate.

  • -42-

    My oldest is nine and we're slowly getting him to realize that he can't dislike something he hasn't tried. If we have something new or something he's not sure about, all I ask is that he tastes it. With the little one, we had to get creative. I bought a dinosaur sandwich cutter. I buy special plates for him to eat on. And it's the same deal with him: he has to at least taste something before he can "not like it."

  • rkoloms

    We use the three-bite rule: you must try three bites of your meal, and if you don't like it, you fix yourself whole-grain toast with peanut butter and honey and an apple or kiwi.

  • Boothfamily

    My seven-year-old loved most veggies and fruit up until last year. Now that she's being picky, I don't indulge it and still make her eat them. Your child will come around. It's just her trying to find her independence and find her own likes and dislikes. My nine-year-old has always been very picky but she is finally branching out. I think you should keep trying to introduce them to the things they don't like and eventually they will like it. It may take four years but they will come around.

Don't Make Separate Meals

  • Mazie0723

    Our rule is you eat what's cooked or go hungry. It only took my six-year-old going to bed without dinner once for all of the kids to realize I wasn't joking. I always make things I know they will eat.

  • Gmgej

    I have been trying to get my picky middle child to eat better for years. He has texture issues. I have found we aren't going to get past it, but we are doing better by working through it. I have found healthy choices for him with breakfast, and dinner is a family thing so he eats what we eat. I won't fix something he won't eat, but I also won't fix two different meals. It was a lot harder to fight it then it is to work with it. My picky eater isn't picky to be difficult, so I don't force the issue. He is picky just because that is who he is. The only issue we force is that he is not allowed to say "ick" until he tries it.

  • Jamie1972

    I used to make separate foods for my picky eater. That stopped because it was too expensive. Then my motto changed: eat what I make or don't eat at all. But you have to eat at least eat three bites of everything. And the only time I made something different is if I know it's something he definitely doesn't like. Otherwise his plate stays at the table and if he gets hungry later he can eat that.

  • LaJoanna

    I do the "eat what you are served because I'm not cooking a whole bunch of meals" thing. If they are hungry, they will eat. But I do tell them if they eat it, they will get stronger, smarter, etc.

  • steelcrazy

    Both of my boys are picky eaters and this is how I do things in my house: I cook one meal and one meal only. I try to make at least one thing every night that they will eat, and they are required to eat some of the meal that I have prepared. If they are still hungry after eating some of the meal, they are permitted to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich.

  • -42-

    I try to make things that I know they'll like. If I know 100% that they don't like something, I double up on something else. I do not make special meals for them. They eat what I make for dinner.

  • monkeypants6

    Do not under any circumstances become a short-order cook. If you are making something you are worried about him eating, just make sure there is at least one other thing on the plate he'll eat and be done. Eventually he'll try it. But if you give in and make him a separate meal, you'll be like my sister-in-law and doing it well into your children's teens.

    Also, my pediatrician told me years ago not to look at what they eat in a day, but what they eat in a whole week. Some days kids just want to eat fruit, other days toast. In the interim, if you're worried about making sure he always gets balanced vitamins, smoothies are the way to go. In a blueberry/strawberry smoothie I'll stick in raw kale leaves or spinach, wheat germ, flax seed meal, avocado, yogurt, banana. I sweeten with agave nectar, orange juice, or more fruit. Use frozen fruit to make it cold. Take heed it won't last too long. Most kids outgrow picky eating.

  • Powerstamper

    I think picky eaters are created and I think it's wrong to indulge it. The parent doesn't like to see the child upset and doesn't want to deal with the crying so they fix them separate meals and cater to the picky eater. Unfortunately the rest of the world won't do this for their child.

Get Creative and Let Them Shop & Cook

  • wakymom

    My first son hated veggies for the longest time and my second son hates meat. I always fix at least one thing I know they like. For a while, we had to resort to them starting their meal with what they were refusing to eat; that was all they got on their plate (about a tablespoon's worth), and they had to eat it before they could have the things they liked or else go to bed hungry. A few hungry bedtimes and they got the message: they don't have to like it, but they do have to eat at least a little of it. With my second son, because getting him to eat meat has been such a hassle, we started adding whey protein powder to homemade milkshakes and pancakes. You could add it to yogurt, too. Letting him choose what to dip his pieces of meat in helped, too. I swear my child is going to start bleeding barbecue sauce one of these days!

  • Cara5

    My kids can be pretty picky. It drives me crazy, but we can't afford to short-order cook for eight people. The kids are getting better now and eat more things than they used to, but the biggest hits in our house are the "assemble at the table" type meals: plain baked potatoes with all the toppings on the side, a big salad done the same way (put the lettuce on their plates and set out bowls of vegetables and toppings to add to it). We do pasta this way as well. I don't mind heating up three kinds of sauce and making a big pot of noodles.

  • Cindy18

    One way to get kids to try new things is to have them cook with you. They are more likely to try it if they cook it.

  • JCC31

    My middle son, who's seven, is a very picky eater. But recently I took him to the grocery store with me and told him that we needed to pick up some healthy food because the doctor said he needs to eat more variety (he likes big words from important people LOL). We decided to let him pick out one of his favorites, Mac N' Cheese, but if we got that he would have to also pick a veggie. He chose corn on the cob, cauliflower and broccoli. He now loves cauliflower (a good trick is if he likes mashed potatoes, you can substitute the potatoes with cauliflower and he won't know the difference). Letting him be in charge of his choices sometimes can go a long way.

    Another trick of the trade is to make your own chicken nuggets. If he likes those, make them at home with Shake n' Bake or breadcrumbs and spices in the oven and he will think he is getting the fattening treat, but it will be healthier. You can even get him to help you make them by shaking the bag of Shake n' Bake and he will want to try his creation.

  • aetrom

    Let him choose some veggies that look interesting to him -- you may be surprised!

  • vermontmoms

    Make kid-friendly food: zucchini or banana bread with chocolate chips; fruit smoothies; make your own fish sticks or chicken nuggets with whole wheat flour, Panko bread crumbs, flax seed, wheat germ, paprika, salt, and pepper -- yummy and healthy! There are so many ways to cook healthy but you have to be consistent and always offer fruits and veggies at every meal!

  • LaJoanna

    Including your kids in preparing meals helps a lot -- they want to eat what they made!

Do Whatever It Takes

  • StephanieSH

    My six-year-old is a picky eater. We use a marble jar for positive reinforcement for a lot of things and one of the things we do with my daughter is give her marbles if she tries a new food or if she eats a vegetable with her dinner. That has worked much better with getting her to try new things than punishing her did. Once the marble jar is full, she gets a toy that she gets to pick out.

  • chinosruca

    My now nine-year-old was a very picky eater at six. It was a crazy time and nothing worked. Not creative hiding of veggies, not positive reinforcement, not punishment. I just made sure she took her vitamins and took advantage of the few healthy things (some fruit, yogurt, and nori) that she would eat. She got a lot of fruit smoothies then (I would add yogurt, fruit, and a little tofu). We also used PediaSure or something similar.