7 Tips for Feeding Picky Kids

By , Julie Negrin, Food Network’s Healthy Eats
Getting kids to eat healthy has become the Mount Everest of parenthood. Every day is a rocky, uphill battle with daily obstacles thwarting parents’ best intentions: bake sales, kiddie menus, birthday parties and vending machines are everywhere. It doesn’t help that kids are still wired like their early ancestors to gravitate towards sweet foods to maintain their weight in case of a famine and avoid unfamiliar foods that may be poisonous. Fast forward to the twenty-first century with easy access to store-bought processed products and introducing kids to cauliflower can sound as daunting as climbing a mountain.

The good news is that there are plenty of tactics to encourage healthier eating habits in kids. 

Involve kids in the meal preparation. When kids help make the meal, they are more likely to eat it. Ask them to wash produce, chop vegetables with a safe butter knife, and help with other kid-friendly tasks like whisking, mashing, mincing, grating, seasoning and garnishing.

Modify recipes. In order to make foods more palatable, modify recipes to be kid-friendly but still sophisticated enough for adult eaters to enjoy. Offer new foods as miniature versions, on a skewer, or in taco shells and Asian wrappers. Add naturally sweet foods like mangos and limit spicy flavors by allowing adventurous eaters to add their own hot sauce or spices directly to their dish.

Schedule structured meals at the same time every day. If kids don’t graze all day or eat a snack right before dinner time, they’ll be more likely to try something new. Hungry kids are much more experimental than satiated children.

Expand their palates. Eating an entire portion of any food can be daunting. Ask them to try just one bite — no pleading or bribing. Even if they say they don’t like it, they have still introduced a new flavor to their taste buds.

Click here for more tips for picky eaters from Food Network.

More from Food Network:
Will your child ever love spinach as much as you? How do you feed your picky eaters?

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I have a nine year old child who pretty much refuses to eat anything that isn't in a chicken-nugget form. I basically wait her out, though. Like the article said, a hungry kid is more likely to try something new! Child abuse or not, I got her to try a banana pepper the other day at the restaurant... and she loved it! Report
Make cauliflower mashed potatoes,sweet potato fries, mix corn in the rice, make a puree of peppers and vegetables and baste your meat with it. Serve V8 juice or something like it as a drink. there are plenty of ways to sneak in veggies without kids noticing. and they'll never notice. Report
My tip is to feed kids raw vegetables. They can eat them with their hands, and they seemed to prefer the crunchiness of raw vegetables. They get the same vegetable we're eating for supper, but it's raw. Our 11-year-old, who is a very picky eater, likes raw spinach but not cooked spinach, for example.

We don't force our kids to eat a particular food. We encourage them to try a bite from our plate. If they don't like the food, they don't have to eat it--ever. Adults avoid foods they don't care for, and kids should be allowed to do the same. That said, we don't allow them to substitute a bag of potato chips and a doughnut for a nutritious supper. Report
I alway remember my parents saying "eat it or go without!!" Back in those days there wasn't an abundance of food and you had to make do with what you had. No child abuse, no stuffing it down my face, but if we didn't eat it there wasn't anything else to take it's place. Report
I was the oldest of 6 children raised by an enlisted man in the Army (in the mid 50's to late 60's), my dad, and my mom. We didn't have a lot but we were fed good. My mother always told us, "Taste first. If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it." BUT, my mother was a great cook - who I learned from. Mom taught us as babies - when on "Gerber" baby food would give us a bite of one food the one she knew we liked and then a new one and another bite of what we liked... This is how we learned to love our veggies. I raised my daughter, who will be 40 in 2 weeks, the same way and loved her veggies as a baby even though I tried to feed her Gerber "blueberry buckle" that I and my siblings all loved. Children learn from "seeing". If they see their parents or siblings eating junk... Teach them young BY EXAMPLE of what you eat. Report
My five children were never picky eaters because I didn't allow it. If they didn't want to eat what was at a meal, then they waited and ate at the next meal. When I was growing up in the 50s my mom would say "If you don't like what is on the table (something like liver & onions) then you can go eat at the neighbors. We never did. LOL Report
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