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Have a Picky Eater? 6 Suggestions for Mealtime and Expanding Food Choices

Updated: Mar 4

A little girl sitting in a high chair eating a plate of food

Parents of picky eaters often wonder if their kids are getting the right nutrition for healthy growth and development. When children are finicky, it can be difficult to serve nutritious foods that you know they will eat.

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Here are some useful strategies for providing nutrient-dense and kid-friendly foods for picky eaters:

Pair New With Familiar for Expanding Food Choices for Picky Eaters

Serve new foods with something you know your child already likes. Present a small amount of a new food on a plate with other familiar foods a couple of times a week, prepared in the same way. It may take several attempts, but the new food will likely be eaten. Choose a new food to combine with a familiar and accepted food, such as cooked vegetable pieces mixed in with pasta.

A mother working with fresh vegetables in the kitchen

Be a Sneaky Chef

Be inventive by cooking and pureeing new veggies or other foods and put them into sauces, or mix into ground beef, turkey or chicken for meatloaf, burgers, meatballs, or other foods. Adding foods in this way bulks up nutrition, and can help to change the palate to later accept these foods in their original form.

Go for Healthy Add-ins

Sprinkle tolerated nuts, seeds or grated cheese or melt low-fat cheese on top of veggies. Add healthy oils like flax, olive or coconut oil to preferred foods. Add berries to cereal or yogurt. Try soups with different combinations of veggies and beans. These are just some of the ways of expanding food choices to optimize nutrition and get those taste buds used to new flavors and textures.

Make Foods Pleasing To the Eye

Presentation is so important to kids. When possible, cut new foods into fun shapes using cookie cutters, or arrange them in interesting ways on the plate. Try putting new vegetable slices on a burger, or new fruit pieces on a pancake or waffle shaped into a smiley face to encourage children to try the new food. Experiment with serving fruits or veggies on a stick and let the kids help make these fun and delicious rainbow kabobs.

Keep It Simple

Keep meals simple, but then add new foods to the familiar dish. Choose simple meats like broiled chicken or meat patties. Add a salad and a complex carbohydrate like a healthy whole grain or a vegetable. This provides wonderful nutrition, is not too time-consuming, and allows you to have basic meals that can be expanded upon to try new foods.

Keep It Fun

Finger foods are favorites among children. Experiment with some kid-friendly recipes like ants on a log (celery filled with peanut butter with a few raisins on top).Raw veggies may be more enticing to children when served with a favorite nut butter or dip. Put these out before dinner is ready. Have children help to prepare the salad or other parts of the meal. Foods that children can help to prepare or arrange on their plates often encourage them to try new foods.

We love the fun feeding trays from Fred & Friends. Here's the original plate and there are other themes to choose from like dino and pirate that may entice your picky eater.

Children frequently are presented with a new food about 10-20 times before they try it or decide that they like it. When it comes to expanding food choices for picky eaters, patience is key. Avoid power struggles, while instead continuing to present the new foods, and modify your presentation as necessary. Most importantly, keep working toward this healthful goal, and give children lots of praise for tasting and eating new foods.

A chart for trying new foods for kids

Entice your child to try new foods with fun incentive sticker charts like this one.

Looking for some proven strategies to help your picky eater?

Check out the quick go-to guide book, Build a Better Eater and get started with a new plan to help transform your picky eater. Get your copy HERE today on Amazon!

Build a Better Eater book for parents of picky eaters

All blog content shared through HealthSmart! Kids is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. Always talk with your qualified health care provider for managing your health care needs.

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