If you have a picky eater toddler it’s frustrating for the entire family. I’ve been through it myself and I know what a huge impact it has on your household. Everything is effected by a child that won’t eat. You end up running late because your kid takes too long to eat. And bedtimes are delayed for everyone because you’re delayed by your toddler not eating. I tried lots of things including sneaking vegetables into food. You have to be patient but eventually you’ll find what works for your family. Take a look at the best ideas here…
Common Mistakes to Avoid
There are some common mistakes parents tend to make when dealing with a picky eater toddler or kid. While it can be frustrating when your kids don’t like half of the things you prepare, that doesn’t mean you should just make them what they want or try to barter with them to eat certain foods.
Here are some common mistakes to try to avoid…
Making a Separate Meal For Picky Eaters
A very common mistake that is often made because you love your kids and want them to eat is making them a separate meal.
It is extremely tempting to make them a sandwich because they don’t want to eat the chicken dinner you prepared, but this is only encouraging their eating habits. They know they can turn down anything they want since mom is going to cook them something else.
Stop being a short order cook and have a rule that they will eat what everyone else is eating when meal time comes.
Offering Dessert as a Reward
If you have a picky eater toddler you may have trying tempting with dessert. Many parents do find this to be helpful, but if you have been offering dessert as a reward for finishing a meal, you might want to re-think your approach.
There are certain ages where it might be a good option, but if your kids get into the habit of having dessert as a reward for eating their vegetables, they might stop eating them if you don’t have dessert that night. This is where the main issue with bartering with your kids to eat comes in.
Forcing Your Kids to Eat Everything Before Leaving the Table
This is something that has been done for decades, but it is yet another bad habit you may want to consider breaking. A better option might be to let your kids leave the table when they’re finished eating, but not offer anything else in return. Forcing your kids to eat by making them sit there and eat everything isn’t always the best approach.
They might challenge you by sitting there as long as possible, then feel like they ‘won’ when it is bedtime and you finally let them get up. This can cause their rebellious nature to react in full force and see how much they can challenge you each night.
Don’t force them to eat, but also don’t let them eat anything else if they don’t eat their dinner. Eventually, they will realize to have full bellies, they need to eat their broccoli.
Not Including Them in the Meal Process
It is a great idea to include your kids more in the meal process. If there is a particular vegetable your son just can’t stand, ask him what vegetables he does like. If he can come up with a better alternative before you plan your meals, then you can make sure he eats his veggies and have fewer problems when dinner time comes around.
Develop New Dinner Time Rules
To help encourage your picky eater toddler to eat the food you prepare them, it sometimes helps to come up with new dinner time rules. Set the rules for every time you eat dinner together, and don’t change the rules or be flexible unless necessary.
That way, your kids know what to expect each night and won’t try to challenge you and get you to change your mind about anything.
Eat Something From Every Food Group
A good method to try out when you want your kids to eat is to at least ask that they try something from every different type of food you are serving.
For example, they don’t have to finish their plate before leaving the table, but they at least have to eat a bite or two of their meatloaf, potatoes, and carrots.
Once they try it, then they can decide if they want to keep eating it or not. This can also be used when you are trying to introduce brand new foods they haven’t tried yet.
Don’t Eat in Front of the TV
Another good rule to have for dinner time is to never sit in front of the TV and eat. This causes a lot of distractions where the kids might not be focused on their food, but more focused on whatever is on the television.
If you sit kids at the dinner table, they are much more likely to eat what is in front of them and become more interested in the food you serve. Even without picky eating, eating in front of the TV is a bad habit to get into.
This takes away from family time and having a nice conversation each evening. As this might be your only meal together most days, it is really good to spend it together as a family.
Nobody Leaves the Table Until Everyone is Done Eating
While it is true that forcing your kids to eat their food or they don’t get up from the table is true, it is also okay to just ask that everyone stay there until everyone is done eating. You aren’t forcing one picky eater toddler to sit there alone because he didn’t eat all of his soup, but simply asking that to be polite, everyone remains at the table until everyone else is done eating dinner.
This helps your picky eaters, because since they’re sitting there anyway, they might become hungry or curious and eat a little bit more of what you serve, even if it isn’t their favorite.
How to Encourage Your Kids to Try New Things
As you might already know, getting your picky eater toddler or kid to try new things is sometimes the hardest part with picky eaters in general. Once they find something they like, they won’t fight it, but getting them to try brussels sprouts or peas when they already know they love broccoli and carrots, is quite the challenge.
Here are some helpful tips for getting your kids to try new things.
Create Fun Names For the Food
Creating fun names for new foods you want your kids to eat can work great, especially if they are younger. Toddlers might hate the look of broccoli and the sound of it isn’t that appealing either, but if you call them ‘little trees’, which they definitely look like, they might become more interested in them.
Whenever you are serving a new vegetable or fruit, try to think of a fun and cute name that might be a little bit more appealing.
Give Them the Opportunity to Try it on Their Own
Sometimes you just need to be patient, serve the food often, and wait for your picky eater toddler to try it on her own.
It may not seem like it now, but eventually your son or daughter will keep seeing the same food on their plate and eventually get curious and try it.
It sometimes helps to be patient and let them try it on their own than try to force them to eat it right away. This does take some persistence, but if you’re lucky, it will pay off and they will have found a new food they enjoy that is also good for them.
Present it in a Different Way
Another good idea for getting your kids to try new things is to present the food in an entirely new way than what they are used to. You can try to cut the vegetables into fun shapes or put the brand new fruit on skewers like kebobs. When kids have food presented in a colorful or creative manner, they are often more inclined to give it a try.
But if you have several kids in your family, be careful using skewers because they can be dangerous. Make your own judgement on that one! You don’t want a toddler accidentally stabbing his sibling in the face with a skewer.
Serve it With Something Else Similar
This works well when it is a vegetable or fruit you are trying to introduce. If you want your picky eater toddler to try cauliflower, you can try serving broccoli and carrots or other veggies in a little dish with some cauliflower in it. They are bound to try some of each vegetable since it is all together and they look fairly similar to each other.
How to Help Kids With Sensory Issues
If one of your kids has a sensory problem, then trying certain foods probably has less to do with being picky, and more to do with the overall color, texture, or flavor of the food in particular. Here are some ways to help kids with sensory problems and getting them to try new foods.
First of all, try not to rush them. Sensory issues might seem subtle, but to your child, they are a very big deal. Just having to eat something with a weird texture can be overwhelming to them.
Give them time to get used to the new foods and never ridicule or punish them for not eating something. It is best that you go slow with new foods and textures, and really take your time with them.
Just put it on their plate and let them experiment with a taste or just looking at it for a while until they get used to it. Eventually they will get curious and give it a try.
Don’t Obsess Over the Situation
If you make a big deal out of your child trying something new, it isn’t going to help them want to try it.
Be as casual as possible when introducing new foods. Put it on their plate, but don’t mention it is there. If you want them to take a bite of something, offer the piece of food, but don’t stare at them while they take it or when they are trying to eat it.
Kids with sensory issues can be sensitive to the extra attention and be more unwilling to try anything due to this extra attention.
Keep Records of New Foods They Tried
Many doctors that work with kids with sensory issues like to record everything new the child has done or tried. For example, if your son waited a while to try applesauce because it looked weird, then one day finally gave it a try and liked it, record that in a food journal for your child.
You can then look back on it for your use and your child’s. You are able to see how long it took before she was willing to try it, but you can also show your daughter later on when you want her to try something, and show that she tried something new and ended up liking it. This little gentle reminder gives her a good reason to experiment again with new foods.
How to Sneak Vegetables Into Your Meals
Vegetables seem to be one of the most common foods parents struggle to convince their kids to eat. Veggies can be a little intimidating for kids when introducing them for the first time, but there are ways to sneak them into meals for the pickiest of eaters. They might not even realize they are eating vegetables, yet you know your child is still getting proper nutrition. Here are some different ways to sneak vegetables into their meals.
Use Leftover Veggies in Your Breakfast
If you have leftover veggies in your fridge, consider chopping them up and adding them to your kid’s breakfast. These are really easy to add to scrambled eggs or an egg and cheese omelet. Just use a little bit of veggies so it isn’t overwhelmed by them, and your kids are likely to eat them along with their favorite type of omelet. You can also use small pieces of veggies with breakfast quesadillas, which are a lot of fun and a nice change from having cereal in the morning.
Add Veggies to Your Pasta Sauce
A common way to sneak vegetables into food when picky eaters don’t enjoy them is to cook the veggies with your pasta sauce. This works best when your sauce is homemade and will be simmering all day, because it gives the vegetables a chance to soften and not be as obvious. Vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and celery are perfect for pasta sauce. Chop them up really small and mix them in, and your kid probably won’t notice the difference.
Make Green Juice For the Kids
Green juice might have a bright color that is off-putting, but kids usually like the taste of it. While green juice does have a lot of vegetables in it, it also has fruit. The fruit is going to help sweeten it up, so it really just tastes like fruit juice. Your child will have a tall glass filled with carrots, leafy greens, and broccoli, but with the apples and berries, it is just like drinking fruit juice.
Add Veggies to Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a kid favorite and a good opportunity for adding in vegetables. Let your kids know you will make them macaroni and cheese if they eat it with broccoli or cauliflower. These vegetables have a mild flavor and are great to mix in to this type of dish. In most cases, kids will eat the veggies along with the rest of the macaroni and cheese.
Kid-Friendly Healthy Recipes Even Picky Eaters Love
You are no stranger to having a picky eater that probably hates healthy food, but there are some recipes even kids who hate almost everything will eat. Try out some of these different healthy eating recipes for your kids.
Mini Meat Loaf
Kids might not want to see a huge chunk of meat loaf on their plate, but when you make things small, it is a lot of fun for some reason. These mini meat loafs are small enough to fit into a compartment of your kids’ lunch boxes, or you can include them for lunch or dinner on a plate with some ketchup or sauce to dip them in. The meat loafs become finger foods, so picky eaters are more inclined to eat them. You will use all the same ingredients as regular meatloaf, but you are going to prepare them in mini muffin tins instead of a regular pan.
Roasted Broccoli With Cheese
Sometimes to get your picky eater toddler to eat his broccoli, you just need to prepare it differently. Plain steamed broccoli isn’t even a favorite for many adults, but kids might be more willing to eat it if you cook it with more seasoning. Try instead roasting the broccoli with some garlic salt and pepper, then sprinkling a little bit of shredded cheese on top when it’s almost done. It is tastier and makes it a little more fun to eat vegetables.
Baked Mini Taco Salads
You can make your own taco salad shell by flipping a regular muffin tin over and wrapping small flour tortillas around the muffin tin. Then bake it on this side for a few minutes until the shell is formed and is hard. You can then use these mini taco salad shells to create a taco salad. Kids have fun with them by breaking the shell off and using them as chips for the taco salad, while you get to include lots of veggies like lettuce and tomato that your kids are more likely to eat.
Homemade Fruit Pops
Many stores now sell popsicle molds that are easy to make your own fruit pops. You can make them as healthy as possible with pure fruit that is pureed and poured into the molds, or using a fruit juice you made at home. You can season them up and make them more interesting by also adding some herbs to the fruit pops. This allows your kids to have frozen treats without all the added sugar and preservatives.
Make Your Children Part of the Cooking Process
If you find that your picky eater toddler just doesn’t like anything you prepare, you might want to try a different method, aside from just trying to convince him to eat his veggies or finish his chicken. Another good option is to actually include him in the meal prep and cooking process. This can peak his interest and possibly even encourage him to eat more of what you serve.
Let Them Find Recipes For Meals
While you don’t want to give your kids full reign over everything you make for dinner each night, it is still a good idea to include them in the meal planning process. Have each kid choose one recipe to make each week, but give them some conditions. This can be anything from choosing a recipe that uses a particular ingredient, like chicken or Brussels sprouts, or be something in the ‘healthy’ section of your favorite recipes blog or website. This lets them have some choice in what is prepared, but you can still avoid eating pizza or macaroni and cheese every time they pick their own recipe.
Give Your Kids a List of Foods to Choose From
Another good way to have kids more involved in the food planning process is by giving them a list of food choices and letting them pick what they want. For example, say you have chosen to make hamburger patties for dinner, and you know you are serving potatoes, but aren’t sure about the vegetable side. You can give your daughter a list of veggies to choose from, and let her pick the vegetable side dish for dinner. She is much more inclined to eat her dinner when she chose the vegetable herself.
Have Them Help Put Together Lunches
When it comes to time to put your kids’ lunches together, have them help out if they want. Give them some options for what can go in their lunch, then let them choose from your approved choices and put the food items into their own lunch boxes. They feel accomplished and happy they got to have some say in the matter, so they probably won’t be quite as picky when lunchtime rolls around.
Get Help in the Kitchen With Stirring or Chopping
If your kids are a little older, they might be more interested in the meal if they can actually help prepare it. Younger kids are usually okay with stirring as long as it isn’t over a hot stove, while older kids can handle more cooking prep, such as stirring something on the stove or chopping vegetables.
School Lunch Ideas For Picky Eaters
When you have picky eaters, preparing a lunch they will eat can seem like quite the struggle. However, there are a few tips and tricks learned from other parents that you can try so your kids eat all of their lunch every day.
Find Sandwich Alternatives
If your kids keep coming home with a lunchbox that includes most of their regular peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it might be time to mix it up a little.
It is possible that the plain ole’ sandwich is getting a bit dull, but if you change it around slightly, they will be more into it. One way to do this is by changing the type of bread you use.
Instead of regular sandwich bread, try putting the same ingredients inside of a whole wheat bagel or putting it in a tortilla as a wrap. You can also switch up the sandwich filling itself, such as by using leftover turkey for a sandwich, or adding some banana and honey slices to their peanut butter and jelly bagel sandwich.
Make Them a Healthy Pizza
You will be hard pressed to find a kid that doesn’t love pizza. While it isn’t usually a healthy food option, there are ways to make it healthier, but also still be tasty.
For example, you can make a mini pizza for your kids lunches where the crust is made from cauliflower, not regular pizza dough. This turns it into a veggie pizza with less fat and calories that is a lot more nutritious. You can even give them the toppings separately so they can have fun putting their little cold pizza together at lunchtime.
Create a Healthier Lunchables
Another thing that tends to be unhealthy but that kids love is Lunchables. These aren’t the best option since they are pre-packaged, overly processed, and contain a lot of ingredients and chemicals your kids don’t need. However, you can turn it into a healthy lunch by putting together a similar meal yourself.
Get some whole grain crackers and add slices of deli meat and cheese. Get it sliced fresh from the deli instead of using the processed stuff to make it healthier. Serve it with some fruit and veggies with dip instead of the cookie or candy Lunchables usually come with.
Try Serving Finger Foods
If you create your kid’s lunch in a Bento box or any lunch box with different compartments, you will be able to serve finger foods. These make lunch fun and interesting, and your kid is probably more inclined to eat veggies when cut into small pieces as a opposed to steamed veggies that don’t look or smell very appetizing.
The Importance of Being a Good Role Model With Eating
If you want your kids to eat the food you prepare them, you need to start by eating the same thing. You can’t expect them to eat all of their vegetables or to eat what everyone else is eating if you aren’t following the same rules. This can become confusing to your children, since they look up to you to show you how things work. Here are some things to do when you want to be a good role model with eating.
Try New Things
One of the biggest struggles related to having kids that are picky eaters is getting them to try new things. They already know they like carrots, so if you try to serve cauliflower, they want nothing to do with it. Once they try it, they might like it, but just getting them to take that first bite can be a daunting task, especially with toddlers.
However, you can try setting a good example by trying new foods yourself. Let your family know everyone is going to try a new vegetable or a new recipe together, and you and your significant other along with all the kids will be trying new foods. Do this often so your kids know you also try things you have never eaten before.
Eat the Same Meals as the Family
Another way to be a good role model when you are eating is by always eating the same meals as the family. If you are trying to teach your kids the lesson that they have to eat what is served, but you change up what is on your own plate, it can be confusing to them. If you are on a strict diet, try to make your food resemble what your family is eating as much as possible. For the most part, you should try to think of healthy dinners you can eat within your food restrictions that are also well-balanced meals for the entire family.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Just showing your kids that you eat healthy the majority of the time can help teach them that this is an important thing for them to do. As your picky eaters get older, they will be learning that even if something sounds gross or isn’t their favorite, they should still try it since it is good for them. This helps reduce their unwillingness to try new things and encourages healthy eating, which helps your kids in so many ways as they get older.
Try to Make Eating Fun
If you haven’t tried this yet, try to feed foods to your picky eater in a different way. There are lots of creative ways you can use foods to make them more fun and interesting, peaking the interest of even the pickiest eater.
Include Bright Colors
One way to get your picky eater toddler to eat food and make it fun at the same time is to use different colors in the foods. You can make their veggies rainbow-colored and even shape them on the plate like a rainbow or a fun shape like an air balloon. There are vegetables in all colors, so you can easily use tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell peppers, green bell peppers, and eggplant to create a rainbow of fun with the veggies. If you want your kids to eat pasta, there are fun colors with that as well.
Use Cookie Cutters
You can turn a lot of different foods into fun shapes by using cookie cutters. If you want your picky eater toddler to eat their pancakes with fruit in the morning, cut the pancakes into shapes with your cookie cutters, then serve fruit on top. This makes it fun and colorful, especially with younger kids. You can also turn those small flower or butterfly-shaped pancakes into finger foods and have kids dip them into syrup instead of eating them with a knife and fork, which further makes it a fun breakfast to enjoy.
Create Food Kabobs
This is a really fun and creative way to make food more interesting for your picky eater toddler. Instead of serving the meal on a plate, try breaking it up and putting pieces on bamboo skewers. This can turn just about anything into a kabob. You can make sandwich kabobs with pieces of bread, cheese, deli meat, lettuce and tomato, or go with a cheeseburger kabob with pieces of hamburger patty, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and cheese. It is also fun just to make kabobs with fruits and vegetables, and adding some cheese cubes as well.
As mentioned above, just be careful if you have several kids because skewers can be dangerous. Even if you only have one child, be sure to supervise closely if skewers are involved in meals times.
Turn Food Into a Picture
If you have a picky eater toddler who is getting bored with their food, they might just need it presented a little more creatively. You can make a picture with their meal by putting it together to look like a bunny rabbit, butterfly, or dog. There are lots of ways to turn ordinary food into something that is fun to look at, just by using your imagination.
With so many ideas, you don’t need to try them all at once. Be patient with new foods and maybe sneak some extra veggies into an omelet at the same time. Trying one or two ideas at a time can really help a picky eater toddler or child to eat more at every meal.
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