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Fun Ways to Get Picky Eaters Trying New Foods

This article is sponsored by NatureBox

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One of my kids is challenging to feed, so I’m always looking for creative ways to diversify their diet. Here are a few ways I’ve gotten them to try new foods:

Disguise foods

I make smoothies with hidden veggies, pancakes with hidden veggies, even cake with applesauce. Most of the time, this works like a charm.

Social motivation

If I serve a new food at a play date when their friend is over, and the friend eats the food without questioning it (or, better yet, gets excited about it), this can make my fussy eater try a new food. I do not do this with established foods that I know my child has decided they don’t like, because they might convince their friend not to like it as well.

Assume they will like it

I keep serving the foods my child has said they don’t like. Most of the time they fuss about it, but every once in a while they realize it actually does taste good.

Have them try a few bites

I usually have my child try a set number of bites, and if they still don’t like it they can try something new. I can usually get five good bites in without too much trouble, barring extenuating circumstances (rough day, overtired child, sick child, etc.)

Make food look attractive

Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, fruits, and veggies into shapes. Put food in a range of (natural) colors on their plate.

Use your imagination

Broccoli is so much more fun to eat when you call it “little trees”! My kids adore “butterfly” Farfalle pasta. And “Jedi food” is extra-yummy at the moment; a couple of years ago “dinosaur food” was the way to go!

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Find a different messenger

We were sent a trial NatureBox to taste, and the fact that the food came in the mail instead of in the bags I brought home from the store made all the difference to my picky eater! They didn’t finish everything, but they tried all of it – several bites of each food, in fact! Even if a picky eater won’t eat the full serving, having them taste new foods is getting them used to different flavors and textures, and that makes all the difference!

Serve a variety of foods on their plate

I find that my picky eater is less picky when their plate starts off more diverse – and if I place it in front of them already served, instead of putting food on the plate at the table, which allows space for them to protest that a given food should not be served. If everyone at the table has the same foods in similar quantities on their plate, they are less likely to protest.

Avoid making “picky eater” part of their identity

This is tough, especially when one child is consistently more picky than the others, but I think that it’s important to do what you can to prevent this becoming part of their identity. As soon as they self-identify as picky, it becomes a job description of sorts for them, and one they do all too well!

Have them do the shopping

My picky eater came grocery shopping with me on Saturday, and they picked out some unusual foods to bring home – and then ate them happily at home! Doing the grocery shopping gives children ownership over their menu.

Plant a garden

Just like with the grocery shopping, having a garden can help kids feel ownership over their meals. My picky eater doesn’t like to eat tomatoes – except when they come from our garden!

Let them have one or two foods they don’t like

I think it’s fine for a child to have a few foods they don’t like – aren’t there a few things you don’t eat by choice? I teach my kids that it’s fine not to eat it so long as they just leave it on their plate without complaining about the fact that it’s there.

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How do you motivate your picky eaters?

Want to give Naturebox’s healthy snacks subscription service a try? They are offering 50% off your first box with new subscriptions right now, and you can cancel any time! We enjoyed the box they sent us, and I really wish there were a way to order our favorite foods from the box in bulk!

Naturebox sponsored this post, but all opinions are my own. The picky eater is also mine.

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

20 thoughts on “Fun Ways to Get Picky Eaters Trying New Foods”

  1. I love all of your ideas. I was queen of picky eating, and luckily, I outgrew most of it by college. The X # of bites rule works best with J. Then we subtract and talk math while he’s eating to distract him. It works really well.

  2. Aarya eats the same meal day in and day out. My issue is he will not try new food. I like a lot of your points, I will definitely try it.

  3. It can definitely be challenging to feed a picky eater. My kids have gone through phases of picky eating. I’ve tried several of your suggestions on more than one occasion.

  4. Anna is not necessarily a picky eater, but there are way too many things she won’t eat. Unfortunately, this includes pretty much all green veggies except peas, tomatoes, etc. My mother and I had huge food power struggles when I was a child, so I decided just to let it go and mostly serve the foods that my child will eat. I am hoping that she will grow out of her pickiness when she is older just as I did.

  5. Elisa | blissfulE

    Love your point about avoiding making “picky eater” part of their identity. My husband was a picky eater growing up, but I think a lot of that was that it became part of his identity. He had to eat a certain number of bites growing up. Now he is just as or possibly more adventurous in eating than I am. And he also plans most of our meals. Yay!

    People comment on what “good eaters” my kids are, but I think a lot of it comes down to never having snacks between meals.

  6. Great points – I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding spinach in other foods and I want to try to start a garden with the girls.

  7. Love your ideas. My pediatrician says that kids have to try new foods 25 times before accepting it. My nutritionist says to have a No Thanks plate which means you try it but then you can put it on the No Thanks plate and not finish it. Do that 25 times and then the kid will eat it. Sounds like a lot of effort but it does work!

  8. great ideas. My girls are such picky eaters. It can be draining. Love the tips. I use a few of them already and will be trying some others. My motto is never give up – maybe one day I’ll wear them down (and hopefully not vice versa)

  9. Wow! that food looks super cool…my kids would love those snacks. I totally believe in the “grow a garden” approach. My girls have tried so many new foods simply because we grew them.

  10. Sadly I have picky eaters too but like you mentioned I don’t call them that!
    This is a fantastic list of tactics!!!

  11. Alisha @ Your Kid's Table

    I love a lot of your strategies and I use many of the same as a mom and pediatric occupational therapist! I would caution against getting carried away with “hiding” foods, I think it is okay in the instances you described, but some people get carried away. Then, kids don’t learn a lot about those foods. Great post!

    1. I do see how “hiding” foods could become problematic. It’s great to hear that you use these strategies as a pediatric occupational therapist!

  12. So many great ideas here! I especially like the one about not letting “picky eater” become part of the child’s identity…these things tend to go in phases, so better to just encourage your child and use some of these great suggestions rather than labeling and making assumptions that the child will always be a picky eater! Thanks for the great tips! :)

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