Picky eating is so common in toddlers, and something I see daily at work. As a pediatric dietitian by day, I spend a lot of time with picky eaters and have been able to apply what I teach moms and families at work to my family at home. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in our picky eating, so I wanted to share my tips and tricks here with you guys as well!
#1 | Work in the garden together
Having a garden is a great way to attack picky eating head on, and to have some fruits of your labor, literally! When kids are able to help grow, nurture and pick a fruit or vegetable, they will feel invested in it and look forward to trying it! Talk about what you are growing and learn about the foods before they are harvested so there is a lot of excitement when it comes to trying them.
When it comes to having a backyard that is ready for a garden, and that will create the best environment to nurture growth, I always look to terminix to keep the bugs and pests away. When I have my little ones in the backyard and digging in the dirt, pests and mosquitos are the last thing I want to worry about!
#2 | Prevent grazing throughout the day
If they are snacking throughout the morning or afternoon, chances are they won’t have an appetite for lunch or dinner. There should be hunger at meals to teach kids to listen to their bodies, and to provide motivation for trying new foods.
#3 | Let them help with the prep
Make cooking fun! Get them in the kitchen to help mix, stir, and pour. Chances are, when it comes to dinner, they will be more open to trying something because they helped make it and have been exposed to it earlier.
#4 | Make food part of playtime
A lot of times kids reject food because they are unfamiliar with it. Make them more familiar with foods, and they will be more comfortable with trying them. I always recommend learning about fruits and vegetables together, reading books and talking about what they see in the pictures, and playing with pretend food in a play kitchen.
#5 | Set a one bite rule
I always say, you don’t have to like it, but you have to try it. Studies show that it can take trying a new food 5-10 times before starting to like it. Don’t stress if they don’t eat everything at the meal. If they’ve taken a bite, they’ve been exposed to a new flavor and are on their way to liking it one day. I’d say that’s a win!
# 6 | Always provide at least one food they enjoy
If you know your child isn’t a fan of broccoli, but it’s what’s being served for dinner, make sure to also include a food at the meal they love. That way, if they only take their one bite of broccoli, they will still have food to fill their bellies. This will also provide less resistance at the meal.
# 7 | Avoid becoming a short order cook
If you don’t do anything else, do not get in the habit of making a separate meal for your picky eater. To really break through picky eating, it’s best to only prepare one meal for the whole family and make sure there are options in the meal that each person enjoys.
# 8 | Rename food
Piper wasn’t a fan of fish, until we called it chicken. We also called chopped cucumbers crackers and she was sold on them, haha.
#9 | Lead by example
I always highly recommend eating together as a family around the table. Kids are much more likely to try new foods and eat their meal when others they love around them are doing the same.
#10 | Above all, keep mealtimes fun
Stay positive. If they feel your stress and tension, they will follow suit. Make mealtime about being together as a family and you will gradually start to see your picky eater become more adventurous
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stay consistent and I promise you’ll see progress. We worked on broccoli and eggs for close to a year…. just exposing them at meal time and setting the one bite rule … and finally Piper will eat a couple bites of them without being prompted.
Let me know if you have any questions, and if there’s anything else that’s worked for you!
photos by sophie brendle photography
this post is in partnership with terminix services, inc. all opinions are my own!