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8 Ways to Get Your Picky Eater to Eat More

Kids eating

You already have everything you need to implement these strategies tonight.

Is there anything more frustrating than a picky eater? You spend an hour (30 minutes, if you’re lucky!) getting dinner on the table—and then your child acts like you’ve placed a bowl of rocks in front of her. 

Whether you’re concerned about your child eating enough to keep her growing or want her to develop a more sophisticated palette, there are tons of ways to help your child try new foods and get the nutrients she needs. Try the tricks below and see what works for your child:

Use an opaque container. Sometimes the color of a food is the problem, so if there is a way to serve it where he can’t really see it, try it out! A green smoothie in a solid cup with a lid and straw is a great example, or a fruit or veggie puree in a reusable pouch works like a charm.

Let them top their food with something they love. There is something magical about a little ketchup or even a handful of rainbow sprinkles. Chefs with Michelin stars might not add ketchup to their salmon, but that doesn’t mean your children can’t.

Don’t ever acknowledge that a food might be unpopular. You might know that many children turn up their nose at broccoli, but you can present it as a special treat that you love, and they have no reason to know that you’re doing high-kicks inside when they munch it down.

Embrace the magic of breading. Chicken fingers have convinced most children that anything breaded is delicious. Use that to your advantage and bread and bake zucchini spears or fish (same goes for a cheese sauce—thanks, macaroni and cheese!).

Let them pick two-to-three foods they don’t want to eat. Even non-picky adults usually have a few foods they do not care for at all, like mushrooms or olives or onions. Let everyone in the family pick a set number of foods they’re allowed to pass on, but everything else needs to be at least tried. And if someone wants to add a new food to the “no-eat” list, then they have to swap out one of the existing foods on the list.

boy holding pieces of fruit

Try a rainbow snack or meal.  Since color variety is often a good indication of how nutritious a meal is, and your kid already loves bright colors, make a game out of trying to squeeze as many colors into each meal and snack as you can.

Go tiny. Children love things that are their own size, so instead of plopping down one adult-size serving, give them teeny squares of lasagna or multiple miniscule bowls of soup. Plus, if each mini serving is only a few bites, it doesn’t feel so overwhelming for them to eat everything.

Veggies and dip on a wooden table

Put out veggies with a dip while you’re making dinner. If your children are about to perish from starvation while you make dinner (and then the moment dinner is served, they’re suddenly all full), put out some carrots, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing or hummus for them to eat while you prep. That way even if they refuse dinner, they’ll have gotten some veggies in. And if they won’t eat them, you know they weren’t actually that hungry.

Happy eating!

Get more great health and wellness stories at EatingWell.com/Strive.