Real Food Tips: 12 Ways to Deal with a Picky Eater

Winning over your picky eater is no easy task, but (in most cases) it can be done! Following is a list of tactics to hopefully convince your child that “real food” is good stuff. Also, don’t forget that it can take time for one’s palette to adjust to new tastes so if you experience some failed attempts at first don’t be discouraged!

Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes

1. Start by switching out the refined and processed ingredients in meals they love for healthier ones. Some recipes to consider: Whole-Wheat Macaroni and Cheese, Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Whole-Wheat Pizza and Whole-Wheat Banana Pancakes (pictured).

2. Give your child a good first impression of the real food you want them to try even if it means deep frying sweet potatoes to make French fries, making sweet zucchini bread, or coating fish in almonds and topping it with a butter sauce. Once your child thinks they like “fish” you’ll have a better chance of getting them to eat it next time (even if you cook it differently).

3. If you like to hide veggies in your kid’s food please tell them about it while they are eating it (if you’re brave enough) or at least tell them afterward. They need to know the hidden ingredient isn’t so horrifying after all. Plus if when they turn 18 they still think they’ve never eaten broccoli, because it’s always been hidden it in their food, where is that going to get you?

4. Bribe them to eat real food with other real food. Most parents already know how to bribe on occasion, but remember it does not always have to be about sweets and junk food. For example, my 4-year-old daughter absolutely loves cheese sticks and will do just about anything for one…including eating a bite of her veggies!

5. Let them pick out their own fruits and vegetables at the store or farmers’ market. Better yet, let them help you grow some produce in a few pots or in a small garden in your very own backyard. Now is the perfect time to start planting for fall, and it would be very little effort and a lot of reward to plant some carrot seeds together in a little pot on your deck.

6. Get them involved in picking out dinner or breakfast recipes and helping you cook the meal. Even kids as young as one or two are great at stirring. I’ve started letting my 6-year-old flip pancakes on the griddle (with close supervision) and she feels like she is the “queen of the castle” when she’s cooking for the whole family! Most kids will at least have a taste if they helped to make the meal.

7. Make a strict “one-bite rule” that they have to at least try a food and remind them that it won’t hurt them if it tastes bad. This goes for each meal.  Also allow them to wash it down with their drink as opposed to spitting it out. You may only win them over 1 out of 10 times, but that one time makes it so worth it!

8. Do not pressure or upset your kids too much over trying a new food. There is a sweet spot somewhere between not giving up easily and not pushing them too hard. This is why I like our “one bite rule” because it is no surprise when I ask my kids to try at least one bite of something new.  You don’t want them to have any negative feelings toward food or mealtime. You should know pretty quickly when you’ve started taking things too far.

9. If your child is especially resistant only put one new food on their plate at a time along with other real food that you already know they like.

10. For older children talk to them about why it is important to make these changes and consider inviting them to watch the documentary Food, Inc. with you. You can also sit down and discuss our list of 10 reasons to cut out processed food. Most kids want to do the right thing and be healthy, and I promise you the transition will be so much easier if they’re on board with making changes.

11. Make sure you have the right expectations. Converting your child or your entire family over to real food is not supposed to be an easy or quick task. Buying, prepping and cooking wholesome meals is obviously going to be more work than ordering a highly processed pizza, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Just remember that the changes you will see in the health of your family will be more than worth it in the long run!

12. It really does take a dozen or more times for a child to realize they might like a new food. It took a lot of patience, but I think I even offered my youngest daughter green bell peppers two or three dozen times before she one day decided she liked it (much to my surprise!). So remember…persistence is key so don’t give up!

 

If you have any additional suggestions you’d like to share please leave them in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out our family real food meal plans if you are looking for ideas on what to specifically feed your kids.

 

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132 thoughts on “Real Food Tips: 12 Ways to Deal with a Picky Eater”

  1. I was a very picky eater and hated many food textures and tastes. I didn’t eat any vegetables at all until I was 15! I decided for myself that I needed to get better at eating and trained myself by trying new things more often. My favourite trick though, was to take a bite of something I did not like on the same forkful as something I really liked. This both disguised the flavour and texture a bit and also got me used to the new flavour and texture gradually. I wholeheartedly agree with not forcing people to eat foods until they are ready to do so as anxiety and fear make chewing and swallowing much harder and do not help at all when trying to eat an unfamiliar food

  2. Growing up I considered myself a good eater- my parents required us to eat a small portion of everything served to us and there were only a few foods I felt were ‘disgusting’- mostly because of the texture- canned tomatoes and canned peaches (I liked both of them fresh!) But when I attended college in Hawaii, I was introduced to several dishes that were new to me- lomi salmon, ahi poke, opihi, poi, papaya, breadfruit, and many more. I remember it took courage to eat them- raw fish was not something I’d previously been introduced to. Many of them I did not care for at first, but with time some of them became favorites of mine! I have seven children, now young adults. We raised them with the ‘two bite’ rule. From the time they
    turned 3 years old, each child was assigned a night as the dinner helper and each one planted and took care of their own vegetable in our garden. None of them were (or are) picky eaters and my three sons as well as their sisters are great cooks today!

  3. hahahah. For us, any attempt to enforce rule 7 brings us into direct contravention of rule 8. “Picky eater” is only the start of it for us (in fact I’ve read that kids with food issues like our daughter’s are better described by the phrase “problem eaters”).

    Having said that, after 11 years of patient effort she now eats a balanced, if limited diet, including fruit, veggies, and whole grains. But well-meaning people suggesting that helping with cooking or growing your own veggies are paths to success make me laugh in despair.

  4. My dad wouldn’t let us leave he table until we ate our food or tries the one bite. And if it got too late, then we’d have save it until the next meal. We wouldn’t eat until we complied. And I have to say it was so effective that he only had to really enforce it a couple of times! And there were four of us…

  5. I love this article. I’ve read it before, but it’s always worth a re-read, and I had to do that today. For my son’s entire life (he’s 4) he’s only known me to eat relatively healthy food, but my husband is a completely different story. I have always used the one bite rule, and it used to be a success but lately it is WWIII in the house at dinner time. And it doesn’t help that my husband hates all food that might be considered remotely healthy. I had to read number 8 again and keep it in mind. Additionally I’m going to try to implement number 9. Instead of putting a portion of the food on his plate – I’ll try one bite. Hopefully instead of sitting at the table for 45 minutes while he keeps the food in his mouth, leading to frustration and anger on all sides (and it STILL doesn’t get swallowed) he will just see it as one small bite and move on. I wish I had more “real food” friends or family around here, but I am absolutely alone in my thinking, and junk food is constantly given to my son despite my requests otherwise. That is one negative in an otherwise positive experience of having both sets of parents within five minutes of the house!

  6. Some tips for working moms: I spend Sunday afternoon cooking. It is family time and I get lots of helpers. I could be cooking 3-4 dishes at once; soup, a caserole, veggie dish. It usually gets us through a few evening meals. As I start dinner each evening, kids are at the table doing homework. I’m right there to stop and help and we can get it out of the way. I put out a veggie tray before even starting dinner. Hungry snackers can fill as much as they like on the healthy treat. You would be suprised how much they eat! There isn’t any bargaining; it is just the only chioce. As I’m clean up from dinner, I plan the next nights meal. (The week’s menu was created before the week’s grocery trip so no going back for needed ingredients) I prep as much as possible so the next night’s meal is on the table quickly.

  7. I was (and still am) a pretty picky eater. When I looked at your tip for having older kids watch Food Inc. I cringed a little. I had to watch that movie for a school project and all it did was make me even PICKIER. If you want your child to start eating healthier, that is the absolute wrong way to do it.

  8. At what age do you implement a one bite rule? I have a 3 1/2 year old that cannot be reasoned, cajoled or bribed to try something he doesn’t want in his mouth, and often ends up in tears if we try to force the issue. How do you enforce something like that? Are there consequences if they don’t try it? Thanks in advance!

  9. My Mother-in-law tells her grand kids that their taste buds change every day, so foods they don’t like today, they may like tomorrow. But, the foods you do like, you will always like. It has worked for her youngest, he is trying new foods every day.

    I lucked out with my kiddo, he will eat anything. The crazier the better. He was the first one at the fair to try fried mealworms dipped in sweet and sour sauce at the fair when he was 5. Now he boasts having eaten frog, octopus, grasshoppers, mealworms. He can’t wait to try snails next!

  10. Great tips! Another one that has really helped me is not bringing highly processed food into the home. Be careful what you stock your pantry with. If there is not so healthy processed food in your pantry, then that’s what your kids are going to be asking for. We can’t line our pantries with sugary cereals and processed treats and expect our kids to prefer vegetables. When there is an abundance of easy to prepare processed favorites on your shelves, there is no motivation for the child to try something different or even the parent to make something healthier from scratch. Processed food scarcity will motivate kids to eat the healthy food on hand, and parents to make the meals.

  11. When you live in apartments, growing your own food is not possible. When you live in places that don’t have stores like the one you recommend, it’s even more difficult. Also, a lot of wheat in one’s diet is not necessarily healthy either. Are their options? When you work long days and come home to a bunch of hungry children, how do you make it work? If you are a stay at home mom and have all the time in the world to cut, prepare and all of that…that’s one thing. But what if you are a primary income source and have to make it work when you are away from home?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Christi. You can certainly find lots of whole grains that are not wheat, if you are trying to avoid it. You can see some of them here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/06/28/food-allergies/. If you are looking to avoid wheat/gluten, Lisa has many recipes that work for that. Another resource would be http://deliciouslyorganic.net/. I know it can be very challenging to feed a family especially when all the burden falls on you. I think a good goal always is to just aim to do a little better one step at a time. Find recipes that you like, that work for your family, and make big batches and freeze. My freezer has made weeknights so much easier. You might have to give up part of a weekend to cooking, but it can really smooth out your week and soothe your worries. I’ve found that having a fridge and pantry full of healthy items helps assure that your kids make better choices when you can’t be there. :) Also, this post can help with budgeting: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/09/30/real-food-tips-12-ways-to-keep-it-cheap/. ~Amy

    2. I was a single working mom for about 4 years, so I get where you’re coming from! (I was also extremely broke.) So I made meatballs & pasta sauce on my days off, freezing them in “dinner” sized portions. I made batches of muffins & pancakes and froze those as well. I also cooked chicken breast, and sliced it up, then froze it. (To have with salad, or on sandwiches.) I bought tons of bags of frozen veggies, cause you really can just rip them open, steam, sauté, or roast them. Lisa has some great crockpot recipes that freeze well, like her BBQ beans. Then you don’t have to stand over the stove.
      Cooking on your day off- not that much fun sometimes. But- when you get home, exhausted, and only have to heat sauce, boil water for pasta, and throw a veggie in a pot, it’s totally worth it! And depending on how frugal you need to be, making “mini” meatballs turns a pound of ground meat into 2 meals… Everyone feels as though they got a lot, but you can stretch it out! :)
      Good luck!

  12. Try the 1 bite rule. We’ve been doing this with our 8 1/2 year old since she was about 3. She needs to take at least one bite of each food on her plate. If she doesn’t like it, she does not need to any eat more, but she does not get a special meal made for her. If she doesn’t like dinner, but is still hungry, she can have fruits or raw veggies, or yogurt to fill her up.
    If she doesn’t try the food, it’s straight to bed…no reading, no electronics. We only had to send her to bed early once, for her to get the message that we were serious. It hasn’t varied her diet all that much, but at least she is trying new things. The rule stays the same even if she has tried something in the past & didn’t like it. Kids need repeated exposure to new foods, because it may take them a few tries before they actually like something.
    Good luck!

  13. I have an 8 1/2 year old daughter who absolutely REFUSES to taste new foods. We have tried everything: games, bribery, taking things away, hiding veggies in foods she likes, begging but as a holistic health counselor who helps clients eat healthier daily it really upsets me that my own kids (also have a 3 1/2 year old son) will not eat healthy whole foods. How would you recommend that I get my daughter to taste new foods? She is so stubborn when it comes to this and sometimes refuses to eat veggies that she’s eaten in the past just because she doesn’t want to. Her diet is bland and plain (pasta with butter, chicken, eggs, cucumbers and is even picky about fruit) and she spots the smallest speck of “green” in foods, she will never eat sauce or soups because there are too many ingredients in a soup (pasta in broth=yes but pasta, carrots in broth=NO WAY!) Any advice you can give will be so appreciated. I know kids need to try new foods and textures several times before liking them but I can’t even win the battle to get her to put a new food in her mouth. Thanks! Kim

  14. I’m new to eating real food. I’m trying to eat healthier to help my husband lower his triglycerides. We have three boys and it’s our youngest that resists eating anything that is remotely healthy. This kid would live of off Mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets , hamburgers and pizza if he could. There are times I can get him to eat apples but no other veggies or fruits. I know I can make my own chicken nuggets and home made mac and cheese…but if I make anything with veggies in it he picks it out. Help!!!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Have you seen the rest of our picky posts? These might help: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/12/07/picky-eater-vs-problem-feeder/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/08/19/winning-over-your-picky-eater/, and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/07/08/top-10-feeding-mistakes-parents-make/. Also, I know this is controversial, but I used to puree veggies and “hide” them in dishes. I let the kids know the ingredients once they were eating the food. I believe it helped them develop a taste for more veggies. ~Amy

  15. I had a super picky 6 year old foster son come to live with us 2 1/2 years ago. He ate exactly 4 foods, none of which were things I would normally offer. At first, I made these foods available, and simply stated that it is a house rule that you must TASTE one bite of anything that is served. Every time it is served. Over time, he started taking more bites. Today, he eats nearly everything I put in front of him, and no longer asks for the processed foods he started life on. Keep offering good choices, reduce the less desirable options, and they will adapt.

  16. I serve “real food” to my daycare kids, which is often very different from what they eat at home. I make sure to include something each child finds edible at each meal. However, I simply will not buy foods that I find unhealthy.

    I think the key is to offer only healthy foods and not to give in and break out the pizza or the chips just to get kids to eat. Also – keep it low pressure as you mentioned. I let kids know its up to them whether or not they choose to eat, but I am firm on the meal plan. Generally, kids get hungry, try new things and end up enjoying them after a few tries!

    Some one told me once: It’s the adults job to offer healthy food to kids. It’s the kids job to eat.

    Some great tips here – thanks!

  17. Here’s a tip that helped with two of my three children (especially around the age of 3.5 when my “wonderful eaters” decided they no longer liked anything!): we came up with a “disgusting or delicious” list. I got a piece of motherboard and hung it prominently in the kitchen. There were two columns (disgusting or delicious) and every time we tried a new food, the kids told me what they thought. After dinner, we’d draw a picture of the food in whichever column they chose-and of course labeled it. They really got into trying new things! We also had a rule that you had to take 3 bites before you could decide where it belonged. Another beautiful thing? When I made the item again and they said “ew! Not that again!” I would point to the board and remind them that they thought it was delicious-and the argument stopped right there.

  18. To warm my kids up to new foods I use a switch in ratio over time & it seems to go over well. Starting with an acceptable green (romaine) I threw in a handful of the unacceptable (spinach) over the next few weeks I increased the spinach to romaine ratio @ now my kids will eat a spinach salad. Worked well with the types of flour I used in recipes & getting them to have vegetable sauces on their pasta or rice.

  19. I didn’t read all of the comments, so this may be a repeat. I withheld snacks for 2-3 hours before dinner time. When they were really hungry just before mealtime, I offered them the “new food” (or the one they didn’t like) to pacify them while waiting for me to serve dinner.

  20. We have cut out just about all processed foods. My kids love it, my husband loves it most of the time. I need help with my daughter though. Since she was little she has loved fruits and veggies and she enjoys eating real food, and trying new reciepes.

    However, she has a weakness for Chef Boyardee. It is the only food that she is upset about not having it in the house. Do you know of any real food receipes that taste simular? I’ve tried making some pasta dishes, but they taste nothing like Chef Boyardee because it doesn’t taste processed.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Carla. It can be a bit of a taste bud adjustment when we are used to more processed foods. Part of the issue is the added sugar in most of those dishes. The sauces are made to taste slightly sweet. I will confess to sometimes sweetening tomato sauces with a bit of honey. :) ~Amy

      1. Thank you Amy. I will try that! This way over time I can use less and less honey, then hopefully next time she tries Chef Boyardee she won’t like the taste anymore. I know I don’t and in my high school and college years I practically lived off the stuff!
        Thanks again!

  21. Our picky-kid acceptable chicken strip/sandwich/nugget recipe is chicken cutlets (or breast pounded thin or cut into nuggets), dredged in seasoned white whole wheat flour, then dipped in egg, then rolled in whole wheat bread crumbs with paprika. Fry in a bit of coconut oil until golden on both sides, then transfer to a baking sheet with a rack. Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, or until meat is cooked through. This method makes yummy, crispy chicken that all of us love. It’s great if you miss those breaded chicken patty sandwiches or chicken nuggets. I don’t see why you couldn’t freeze them, then thaw and reheat in the oven as needed.

  22. I’d be interested in a post about peer pressure. My child is not really picky but brought home almost his entire uneaten lunch the other day because a kid said “ew” when he was eating a mushroom. (one of his very favorite foods) We talked with him but I’m not sure it did much good. I hope it doesn’t continue, he’s such a good eater!

  23. I have a 3 year old problem eater. We started out with Baby Led Weaning at 6 months and up until he turned 1 he’d eat lots of foods. Then he started to refuse all foods to the point that he now only sometimes will eat vanilla yogurt, but only if I spoon feed him. Bread and butter. And occasionally wagon wheel shaped pasta with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on it.
    I’ve honestly tried everything at this point. He sits at the table with us and we put the tiniest amount of our dinner on his plate and give him some bread to eat, but just putting the plate with our food on it near him causes him to have a huge tantrum and ask to go to bed instead. He’ll happily go to bed hungry rather than sit there or even lick a new food.
    When I can finally convince him to try a food he’ll always say he liked it, but will never take another bite or try it again.
    He won’t eat nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza, pb&j, pancakes, cheese or any of the foods that most picky eaters will eat. Veggies, fruit and meat are completely non existent from his diet. If it wasn’t for Pediasure/Instant breakfast my son who’s always struggled to even be on the weight chart would be in even worse shape.
    We belong to local CSA’s and all our fruits and meat are organic and local. We cook almost all our meals. If we do buy something processed or have take out, he still won’t eat it.
    I’m at my wits end. I’m going to try probiotics next because I’m running out of options that don’t involve expensive medical tests or therapy.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Denise. I know that must be frustrating. It may help you to read through our other picky eater posts and the reader comments that follow. I’m certain you will feel less alone in your struggle: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/12/07/picky-eater-vs-problem-feeder/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/02/06/more-picky-eater-tips-and-a-140-giveaway/, and https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/08/19/winning-over-your-picky-eater/. Also, this article deals with exactly what you are talking about: http://www.babycenter.com/0_feeding-problems-refusing-to-eat_9203.bc. Hope it helps. ~Amy

  24. Any good nutritionist will tell you never to bribe with food, and never to make a child eat a less desirable food in exchange for a more desirable one — because the less desirable food will be even less desirable and the more desirable one will be even more desirable (there are clinical studies to prove this).

  25. I’ve been trying to master homemade chicken nuggets that my children will eat (sorry Lisa I tried your recipe and my picky kids didn’t like it, my husband and I did though) they are obsessed with nuggets and I really hate the ready made stuff because in my opinion it’s complete crap. I found a new recipe last night and tried it out and my kids loved it. We have been trying to eat clean for a few months now and are doing pretty well, there was a post on here earlier that said just to give them choices between healthy items rather than junk food and I find that most of the time that works, we’ve cut out much of the processed stuff and sugar but my kids are often resistant to change so we’re trying to do things a little more gradually with them. Anyway, if my kids admitted to liking these nuggets that is huge so there is hope! (PS my 5 year old LOVES the pumpkin muffins, they are really good and I don’t feel bad about her eating them since there’s no sugar!)

    1. What is the recipe for nuggets you found?? I’ve tried a few and still haven’t found one they like yet.

  26. We have a one bite rule here. My 6 year old is hesitant at first, but most things he likes after the first taste. My 3 year old is an entirely different story. If he likes it, he will tell me it is good but he still won’t eat it. If he doesn’t like it – oh boy – he screams and cries that it tastes like “good stuff” and he is allergic to it. Two days ago he even ran to the bathroom crying and tried to throw-up!!! He absolutely cannot handle the idea of eating healthy, for now. We keep trying.

  27. We have an “eat one” rule. One bean, one asparagus spear, etc. It can followed with a swig of milk if appropriate. As long as there is no gagging, I’m comfortable with this requirement. We eat new foods over time in various ways or with different sauces/dips. The green beans took a while but eventually my son liked them. If he eats one and doesn’t care for more, I always suggest that he just keep trying them in the meals to come, and he may find that his taste buds “have grown up” and he’ll like them. It works!

  28. These are some great suggestions! I especially like how you incorporated the real food aspect into this. Recently on my own blog we discussed it but more from a toddler’s standpoint. Ironically my 5 year old is the picky eater, so some of you suggestions will definitely be beneficial to him.

  29. I tried the whole wheat banana pancakes with my 16 month old “very selective eater.” It took a few bites and him seeing me eat them before he quit spitting them out and finally ate them. Now he gets excited when he sees me pull some out of the freezer!! He loves them and so do I. I did the same thing with the Annie’s whole wheat mac and cheese. It took a few tries, but he’ll eat that now. I still haven’t been able to get him to eat vegetables, unless they’re pureed in the pouches.

    Do you have any tips for introducing new foods to younger toddlers?

  30. Any suggestions for the 46 year old picky eater in my house who LOVES George Carlin’s response to picky eating and why he doesn’t like a food if he hasn’t even tried it…”I know I don’t like it and if I tried it, I would like it even less.” HELP!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello RT. Yeah, those adults are hard! Just keep trying and keep educating! Sometimes just changing the way a dish is prepared and presented is enough to inspire a taste. With my adult slightly picky one, all I need to do is add cheese. :) ~Amy

      1. Amy…I wish it was so easy. In a nutshell…no casseroles, no sauces/gravies (except BBQ/ketchup), no seafood, and his acceptable fruit and veggie list is limited to the occaissional apple, corn (only on the cob), and potatoes (not mashed, and preferreably not sweet potatoes). So far my 9yr old and 2yr old are only moody eaters, not quite picky eaters! Best wishes to all the other cooks trying to deal with this issue!

      2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hello again RT. Sorry that it is such a challenge. Keep at it and your kids will stay on the right track. ;) All the best! ~Amy

  31. We have started cooking more as a family (one of my new year goals). I have twins that are almost 3. My daughter eats ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! I feel blessed by that. My son eats like what I assume a normal little guy eats like. He is wary of foods mixed together and new things. He might not eat anything when it is on the plate, but if he “samples” the ingredients as he is cooking, he gets on board! We made a broccoli quiche, which he normally wouldn’t have touched, but since he put the cheese, beat the eggs, and tossed in the broccoli, he gave it a go!

  32. I have 3 children ages 13, 8 and 4. We eat fairly healthy, with fruits and vegetables and limited sugar and processed foods. I am trying to make the move to eliminate ALL white sugar and processed items. I am having the hardest time with the teenager, she has a very delicate pallate, she doesn’t like the whole grains or earthier breads, cereals and crackers, she doesn’t like oats. We discuss often the reasoning for the move. We talk about what these fake foods do to our bodies etc. I bake often and have been using white flour for the most part, I usually remove about half a cup of the flour and add ground flax or oat bran. What I need help with is what can I do, if I want to do most of my own baking to make muffins, cookies, pancakes, breads is whole wheat not enough? I thought we were eating quite healthy, no sugary cereals, I don’t buy store bought cookies, or muffins, they don’t get junk like fruit roll ups or pop tarts etc. We don’t even drink juice, no pop. No candy except the occasional things on Halloween and such. I don’t have a problem with their fruit and veggie intake, its more like the grain heatlhy choices, like making the switch to quinoa, or couscous things like that. They like their pasta although I don’t make it often, we tried brown rice pasta and it went over ok, except the 13 year old. To make a big salad with all of the stuff mixed up doesn’t work either, it has to be separate. Also, we are a very busy family, and 3-4 nights a week, our dinner needs to be quick to prepare because I like us to be sitting down together and I don’t want us scarfing it down. So if you had any dinner ideas, and on the go snacks I would appreciate the help. Also, what do you consider okay for sweetner, I have used applesauce, honey and agave syrup before, are these acceptable choices?

    1. One of our favorite meals is to have a salad bar with lots of toppings. The kids enjoy helping get all the things they like and put everything in little bowls on a turntable with a big bowl of plain greens in the middle. Maybe your 13 year old would like this since everything is separate. I find that the kids end up eating a little of everything because it’s fun to take some out of all the little bowls. It’s a lot of dishes to wash, but it’s worth it to see them enjoying so many kinds of veggies. And it’s a pretty quick meal to prepare, that the kids can help with or even make themselves! Some toppings we like: peppers, carrots, sprouts, craisins, tomatoes, olives, nuts, cheese, celery, sunflower seeds. The kids like italian dressing (I need to come up with a good homemade version) and I love my homemade ranch made with raw milk.

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Trish. Congratulations on all you are doing to make the switch. My first thought is have you tried using the 100% white whole wheat flour that we often use. I can tell you firsthand that my kids didn’t flinch when I started using it. It a great way to bridge the gap. For the pasta switch, I used more sauce in my pasta recipes and it made the change less noticeable. We also had to experiment until we found those we like the best. Trader Joe’s has been our brand of choice as well as 365 from Whole Foods.

      As for agave, here is a post that may be of interest: http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/. And here is a link with snack ideas: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/31/85-snacks-for-kids-and-adults/. Also, have you subscribed to the blog and “liked” us on Facebook in order to download the meal plans: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/our-free-meal-plans/. Hope this helps. ~Amy

  33. Love these tips! I have been reading this site off and on for a little while, but just now seeing these. Something else that works for my kids is telling them, “Maybe you will like it now that you are [whatever age]”.

    I have explained to my kids that I was very picky as a kid too. But as I got older, I started to like things I would never even try as a kid. So I make sure they know it is okay to not like something, but to be open to trying it again later. Now this is a regular thing I hear, “Mom, now that I am 7, I like [gnocchi, asparagus, fish, whatever]!”

    Although admittedly, I did hear the other day, “Now that I am 4, I don’t like broccoli anymore.” Ah well… can’t win ’em all!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Kristen. That is a hard one…at the end of the day, he is an adult and he is going to have to want to make the change…I don’t know that there is anything you can do to force that one. You could provide him with “the facts” though as much as you can to try and make him understand why a change would be good. You may also find this post helpful…https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/07/07/convincing-a-reluctant-spouse-to-eat-real-food/. Good luck. Jill

  34. Only a few months ago, my 3 year old son was trying new food and he liked it. He was even requesting fish a few nights a week. He has never like fruit (except banana) or vegetables but eating everything else was great and hiding the good was working. Now he is on this hot dog thing. All he wants is hot dogs! Its pretty gross. He will try other foods, after threatening to through out Hot Dogs, but he doesn’t like them. He tastes and spits it out. Pancakes, bread, go-gurt and all junk still have a place in his diet, but nothing healthy. I am hoping he will stop liking the hot dogs soon, and move on. But what if he doesn’t? Any suggestions of healthier hot dogs for faux dogs I could give him? Turkey Kielbasa works, but no sure that is much better.

  35. I work with a family of 3 boys (6, 3 1/2, and 19 months) and they are the pickyest eaters I have ever worked with to the point that mealtimes become the times I dread the most. Super frustrating! The 6 year old will only eat raw carrots, sometimes under great protest a bit of steamed brocolli, refuses sweet potato, won’t touch any salad greens or tomato or cucumber or onion or mushroom or celery. Won’t eat slices of ham protests chicken, takes forever to pick thru slices of beef or hamburger and will only eat parmesean cheese sliced thinly. The 3 1/2 year old will only eat puree baby food veggies ie carrots and sometimes carrots and peas, won’t eat any meat other than slices of ham and thin slices of marble cheese(no other type of cheese). the 19 month old refuses to eat any puree for me(mom makes her own with boiled chicken and red lentils) and won’t eat any raw or cooked veggies. I can get him to eat slices of ham and sometimes marble cheese. They all like bread(we only have whole wheat) and crackers(again whole wheat) and I make pancakes(from scratch with whole wheat flour) once a week which if I don’t add anything(bananas, cheese & pasta, yes I have tried to hide them) and make it the right colour for one and plain for the others they will eat it. Mom and grandmother will spoon feed younger two if they are there at meals. The youngest and oldest will drink homemade smoothies every day but not the middle child. He apparently threw up once after having one so won’t touch them ever again. Any suggestions as to what to do? Mom is not ready to face the stage of if they are hungry they will eat and gives in to all demands with homemade wholewheat banana choc chip muffins or ice cream or chewy bars(granola type with choc chip). the 3 1/2 is going to go to school fulltime in the fall. ARRGH! so frustrating I love these boys but mealtimes are becoming a real issue

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Nanny. It sounds like you need to work things out with the family maybe. I would say that they should eat whatever is offered and if they don’t want it, then that’s their choice. Best of luck. Jill

  36. I find your tips so enlightening and I’m trying to apply them with my 4 yo twins. the problem i have is that i don’t know how to present the food to them. For example sometimes they like their starch on one bowl and the sauce/protein in another, but other times they don’t eat, even if it’s one of their favorite, because they want it mixed (!) how would you approach this?
    My other question is what to do when they gag at the table, is it best to ignore or tell them that is not good manners? And if they gag is it still good to force them to eat the one bite?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Eugenia. I know they’re a little young, but, what if you just put everything on the table and have them fix their own plate…that way they put it where they want it on their plate. And, I find that almost makes them more interested. As far as the gagging, I’m guessing they are doing it mostly for attention (I have 4 little ones so I know the drill :-)). I would just ignore it and see if they stop. If not, then maybe address it away from the table that it’s not appropriate, etc. It’s hard, I know, but, just keep at it. Jill

  37. The insisting kids try at least one bite of something before they decide they don’t like it really works. My mother told my sister and I that throughout our childhood, and even now that we’re grown we still go ‘well how can I know I don’t like it, if I don’t try it?’

  38. I love these tips! I’m hoping to avoid too much of struggle in the future by starting Hailey off on whole, unprocessed food. At age 1, she eats all her vegetables and fruits. I’m hoping it continues as she begins to develop into an opinionated toddler ;)

  39. This blog and the recipes have given me so much inspiration to provide healthier foods for our family. We’re doing well! My 2-year-old eats nearly everything while my 4-year-old daughter is the pickier one.

    The one thing that worked best for us was to rid the house of all the stuff we don’t want them to eat. All of it. Gone. If it’s there, they will see it and beg for it. I hate the fighting so I just don’t buy it. This includes all dessert foods, chips, sugary yogurts, juice, etc. From what’s left in the house, they develop new “favorites” and start to ask me for those instead.

  40. I saw your recommendation for the book “French Kids Eat Everything (and yours can too)” and I would like to wholeheartedly second the recommendation. A couple of things that we have learned from the book are:
    1) we now treat dinner as the special occasion that it is…we have candles lit on the table as a very simple and easy fix. It sets the stage for appreciating the dinner (as I, the cook, have put forth much effort, and would like an appropriate reaction)
    2) I serve our meals in stages (3-4)courses so that we take a lot longer to eat, enjoy the meal and the company.
    3) snacks are out of our lives almost exclusively, except for one after school snack- the thought is that feeling hunger is good for our bodies, and that it will help to fill up with good, healthy food at the next meal. This one totally works, by the way.
    4) we eat later. our son is 6, and goes to bed around 7:45 pm. Now we are eating around 6:45-7, instead of 6. This means he is fairly hungry, eats a good dinner, and isn’t hungry before bedtime (b/c it’s right after dinner).
    5) we’ve made vegetable soups to begin to get used to the taste (ie Leek, Celery, Spinach, Pumpkin) and served flavorful things to bring out the taste ie pesto or balsamic vinegar for tomatoes.

  41. In regards to teaching them to eat healthy- I wonder if your kids will think you are full of it when they start health class and hear that low fat, etc is the “healthy” way and here we are all pushing eating moderate amounts of butter on toast, and cooking with lots of butter, coconut oil, etc. It’s hard to believe that they will think we know what we are talking about when every school across the country is telling them differently.

  42. We have four boys (almost 6, 2 1/2 twins and 11 months). The three younger ones thankfully eat most everything without a complaint. Our almost 6 year old has given us the trouble this past 9 months since our switch (he’s actually crying right now over a smidge of beans on his plate.) Our reward after dinner each night is a frozen banana. Just cut bananas in half, stick a Popsicle stick in them and freeze on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. We keep our freezer stocked with them now and the entire family enjoys a “frozen nana” after they’ve eaten their dinner without complaining. We also cut them into slices and freeze them and use them as potty training rewards.

  43. Question about getting kids (and adults) to eat veggies… I know that all of the vegetable dips out there and salad dressings are processed and full of things that aren’t good for you, but I don’t know to make plain, raw vegetables more exciting and tasty for my family to eat! Help!

  44. What do you do when your kids do not want to eat what you make them and they do the one bit rule and complain they are still hungry? Do you make them something else or offer them more of what they did like? I usually say they have to eat what’s on their plate before getting anything else. If they are hungry then they can eat their veggies or some cases meat. I’m not sure that is what I should do but I don’t really want to be a short order cook or waste food.

    1. Shannon I am a meanie mom. I will not give my kids anything else. If they don’t eat what I made they DO NOT eat. They can wait until the next meal. But that’s just me. I am sure there are others out there who can give you better advice. LOL

    2. Our rule (evolved over the years). It doesn’t have to be your favorite, but you are expected to eat it thankfully and respectfully. We get a variety of fits over this, but I’m not making separate meals. I do give them a lot of what I know they like in the meal and a very small amount of what they don’t and we go from there.

    3. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Shannon. I always make sure there’s at least one thing on their plate that I know they like. I don’t cook special meals. At least having one thing assures they get something. I have never had a child wake up during the night telling me they were hungry. Between the one thing and what they get to eat during the day, I feel like they are fine even if they don’t eat their entire dinner. Good luck. Jill

  45. these are FANTASTIC ideas!!!! thank you so much!!! i have a picky eater son who loved some smoothie pops i made with spinach in em. didn’t like the smoothie i sent to school in a thermos but liked exact same thing FROZEN!!! so i’m so going to get some of those pop mold things you show on your blog. for their lunches. LOVING your website!!! thank you so much

    my neighbor and i are swapping recipes and cutting processed food out

  46. I am an American expat living in Austria with my Austrian husband and raising our toddler.
    The way Europeans eat & live (especially here in the alps) has changed my entire life, truly.
    For example, our fridges are very small (nothing like in the states) because they like to walk to the shop daily and pick up fresh food.
    More amazing stuff like raw milk vending machines (that are very, very safe and regulated and come straight from the farms) or just getting it from the farmers themselves which are everywhere. No GMOs (Austrian bans them), no pink slime and get this, if we import food from the states (just for example, cookies), they actually alter the ingredients to remove any GMOs, etc… to meet European standards. This means the cookie you are eating in the US has extra crap the same cookies (from the same company) Austria are importing/eating do not. If these companies can alter their ingredients successfully to get into the European market, why are they not doing this for Americans?
    Even fast food here only allows 100% farm (a lot of times) organic produce & 100% grass-fed beef in their food, FROM Austria. No imported anything allowed. If McDs can do this here, why not everywhere? In fact, McDs is known for changing up their menus and adhering to various regulations, depending on which country they are in.

    It’s common to go the doctor here and get prescribed a natural and/or homeopathic remedy above all others. Really. When I first got here, I was still blind to ways of holistic living and used to beg for the hard meds. I’ve since figured out not only healthful living in all forms (food, toxins *cosmetics/household products, etc…*), air, hidden health hazards, etc… but have totally changed my way of living.
    I can’t do it all, but darn if I don’t try. No BPA or BPS (which is in all plastic) the best I can. Never canned, boxed or processed foods. I’ve since begun fermenting, I make water and milk kefirs, kombucha. When I do grains it’s whole and I try to soak & sprout them. I make my own dish soap, laundry soap (and not to save money only but to avoid toxins altogether). I haven’t reach the stage of No poo (no shampoo), but I do use apple cider vinegar as a rinse and coconut oil as a lotion. Organic is affordable here, but even when it’s not, we do it because the long-terms effects of non-organic in the end, just may be more costly health-wise.
    I try my best and like most us, due to financial reasons and just plain time, I miss a lot, make mistakes and just can’t afford some routes I would like to take. Such as life.

    With that, I just want to say, the holistic living here in the Austrian alps, the focus on bikes and walking or mass transit (very much how people travel and move about here), things closing on Saturday around 5/6pm and not opening again until Sunday, so you can rest and be with family…have way less stress. Work under 40 hour weeks (my husband gets off as most people, around noon on Friday), long 4-6 week holidays, 1-3 years paid maternity leave. These things make a difference in our overall healthy, well-being and longevity.

    As a whole, including all these lifestyle changes just because I am here and it’s how it’s done, has changed so much for me. Sadly, I can’t reverse everything and do have some lingering health issues from my past, but I’m working on them.

    Back to the original post… My 2 year old daughter prefers carrots and her daily spirulina drink to cookies. If she has a choice between a stroller and walking, walking every time.
    These things aren’t because I am some kind of super mom (FAR from it), but because she watches her surroundings. She is living her life next to ours and is just eating and doing what she sees. Not being bombarded by things like fast food or sugary snacks has made all the difference. We don’t deprive her. She knows what sweet is and has had fries a few times, but I believe by introducing her to healthy, whole, unprocessed food from the start and continuing on with it, she will in the future, make better choices for herself. It’s already proving true and I am so so grateful for that. Like many of you, my upbringing was the opposite. In fact, I was raised in the age of microwave dinners and 10 cent McD hamburgers. My parents loved me and did the best they could, but sadly, times were different back then. Amen to new information, change and a second chance. Even if it’s not for us. Passing our new knowledge down to our children is a pretty great second chance if you ask me though. :) Good luck everyone. xxx

    1. Christene – i loved reading your comment. Although this was a long time ago when you posted, hoping to still touch base with you.Not on the food side, but on being an ex-pat in Austria. Did you speak German already or learn it there? Can you email me? ulla_schindlerAThotmailDOTcom
      thank you!

  47. Stephanie Abramowitz

    Just discovered your website and I’m thrilled! I can’t wait to try some of your recipes and ideas. We already eat real foods, most of the time, so my main problem is with my 5 and 2 yo boys – I can’t get them to TRY a new food, not even a bite most of the time. And the saying, “They’ll eat when they’re hungry,” does not apply to my boys. They would prefer to not eat than try new foods. I’m going to try the “No thank you helping,” or the “bite for a bite,” but I’m so beaten down with serving healthy, tasty meals, pleading with them to try a bite, and have them refuse and not eat at all. I’m planning to have them try to kiss or lick the food as well, maybe that will work? Another issue I have with my boys is they don’t like foods mixed together, ie no casseroles, no sauces on anything, no sandwiches. Making lunch for my 5 year old is torture because he doesn’t like sandwiches. They also don’t like pizza! What kid doesn’t love pizza?! We’ve even tried making our own pizza from scratch only to have them taste and then refuse it. Any and all suggestions are welcome! Thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Stephanie. Here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider.
      1. Have the kids help in the meal preparation.
      2. Always include at least one whole food on their plate you know they will eat and enjoy.
      3. Include them in the purchase process or, better yet, plant a garden so they can see where the food comes from and be a part of it.
      4. Be patient. It really does take time, some times a lot of time, to change preferences or habits. They might actually surprise you one day.
      Best of luck to you and your family.

    2. hi stephanie,
      i work with young children with feeding issues & your instincts are right on:) it is great to limit the amount of food in front of them at any given time so that the thought of eating a new food is not overwhelming…it is just 1 or 2 pieces of something. same goes for giving a smaller amount of the preferred foods and then you can get them more. i have a hierarchy i use where the new food has to stay on the plate-> touch it-> kiss it-> lick it (or tickle it with their tongue) -> take a bite. you might stay at one spot for awhile with a food and you don’t need to go through all of the steps, but it helps them feel more in control and that they can warm up to what feels comfortable and safe to them at their own pace. i also talk about how the healthy new food has good things for their muscles to make them big and strong…boys seem to like that! i also have a no thank you spot or bowl where they can place food after they have “tried” (which can mean just kiss to begin with) it. i really like the perspective that ellyn satter has on the division of responsibility that parents/adults have and the responsibility children have when it comes to building a positive eating environment – she has a few books (Child of Mine is one of them) and a website.

  48. Debbie St. John

    Great tips! My 4 year old son is very picky. He does have some sensory/texture issues but I found a great way to get him to try new foods. He is, like many kids his age, a big ham and loves to pose for the camera. If there is something new I want him to try, I grab my camera and tell him I want to take a picture of him eating that food. He, of course, complies and takes a bite as I snap a pic. I make a little bit of a big deal (I usually show him the pic, and say something like “Woohoo! You ate _____!” Then I tell him I want to get another picture of him eating it. I can usually get him to eat most of whatever food it is by using this method. :) Before this, we used the “no thank you serving.” It worked well (and still does) for my daughter (7 years old) but never worked for my son.

  49. I forwarded this to DH because we’ve been having problems with a picky 2yo. Very helpful! But DH did point out a typo…your last sentence: “persistence is key so do give up!”

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      LOL…thank you for sharing that! I always hope people will tell me if they see typos :)

  50. We have switched over a lot of our foods. I make things mostly home made. I do use some box mixes but they are organic back to nature or organic annie’s products if I am in a pinch. My nephew recently came to live with me. He is the pickiest eater I have ever encountered. He wants to know what every ingredient is in it. He doesn’t like any sauces. I made the home made chicken nuggets he acted as though he had bitten into a rotten egg when tasting them..He loved the banana whole wheat pancakes. They were a hit with the whole family.. He now has become better over the last couple of months of giving things a good honest 3 tastings before he decides whether or not he is a fan. He has come to like some things he definitely did not before. I know while he has been in my care I have made good healthy choices with him, taught him about the growth cycle of plants by planting veggies, fruits and flowers. Understanding your taste buds and how they develop and hopefully making good choices after he leaves my home in the next couple of months instead of mcdonalds loving everyday. In this change in life style budget has been hard for we have a mere 200 bucks a month for five people. Its almost close to impossible and many times I do go over and it dips into my bill money…I have lost 10 lbs just by diet change and a two week stent of exercising which I quickly ran out of gusto for..I am try to make small changes one at a time for my family so that one day they may or their kids may make big changes for their health and this world.

  51. Very impressed with your ideas I think they would work on some very finicky eaters! Sure wish we had these years ago had lots of issues with children who wouldn’t eat anthing. I also like your comment about patience it doesn’t happen overnight. One of my grandsons doesn’t like cauliflower so when he’s here and we have mashed potatoes we put in cauliflower and he doesn’t even know. Got the idea from Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, I really like it too. I’m going to share this on my page I think it’s really good information and should be shared. Thank you for putting this up.

  52. So, my 7-year-old likes veggies, likes whole wheat, likes fruit. What we have problems with is that he doesn’t like anything creamy. He doesn’t like cheese on his burgers. He doesn’t like anything resembling a crescent-roll-type texture. He doesn’t like casseroles. He will eat what I tell him to, but I also don’t want to make him eat something that he genuinely can’t stomach. Any suggestions?

      1. We have a one-bite rule, and he used to eat all these things and love them! Now they make him gag.

    1. My dd does not like anything creamy either: gravy, ranch dressing, butter on toast, not crazy about casseroles with white sauce as a base, even whipped cream she will eat around and leave on her plate. I think it’s just personal preference. But when she doesn’t like something plain, and I suggest it would make it better by putting something on it, to her that makes it even worse. I just have to make my meat and veggies be high quality and fresh, and taste so good on their own, with basic seasoning of salt, pepper, butter, that you don’t need anything else, like a fancy European restaurant. Guess how often that happens? #notmuch

    2. Hi Cindy, I am 22 years old female and your son sounds like I did at his age! Even as a baby I would spit out cheese!! If our family had pizza I would only eat crusts, no whip cream, no salad dressing,cream cheese, and absolutely no mayo or cream dressings. I think it was hard on my Mom!I too like any plain foods with no extras.

      For me it was a texture thing, especially when any of it was cold. I now eat cheese when it’s cooked, and if someone would put whip cream on my plate I would probably eat it.

      But it’s okay! I still drink milk and get my calcium other ways, I’m a really healthy person. Lots of my friends wish they didn’t like the high calorie extras that they feel they need to go with their healthy stuff! It is just personal preference!!

    3. It sounds like it could be possible Sensory Integration? Does he have any either issues with textures (clothing, etc), sounds,? Google sensory integration disorder, sensory disorder food, Out of Sync Child. My 6 y/o has SID

    4. Then don’t make him eat anything creamy. It isn’t necessary. Things that are creamy are high in calories and fat. This is also true for baked goods and casseroles. Maybe you child has a sense that this isn’t good for him.

      He also might have a real distaste for creamy things and he will dislike them his entire life. I have an adult son that I thought was being picky when he wouldn’t eat anything with nuts in it. When he wouldn’t eat green beans almondine I thought he was being fussy about green beans. As it turns out, he genuinely hates the taste of nuts and he won’t eat them today at the age of 30. He’s fine with green beans. We must respect that our children might not like the things that we do.

  53. Finally had a break through with my daughter last night. She is 3 years old and not accepting our new food AT ALL! It’s our fault for letting her eat terribly for so long, but she has been beyond difficult. This weekend I found some organic yogurt and decided to let her fix her bowl herself. Not only did she eat the yogurt, but she topped it with some frozen berries and sunflower seeds. She also ate a slice of bread from Great Harvest. As a mother, it was so validating to see her eating a complete REAL meal and liking every bit of it.

    AND, this morning she ate a three-ingredent Lara bar instead of her usual cereal bar!

    Thanks Lisa for all your tips!

  54. Love that I found your website!!! I have two picky eaters, one that is 9 and I swear is afraid of food. He eats fruit of any kind, so we serve it up all day long. We sneek veggies into other foods for him, but he is STILL SO PICKY. My middle child is autistic and very picky as well, but his is more of a sensory thing than anything. He prefers bland yellow colored foods. We are learning how to work with him more to introduce new things…but it is a battle. I hate making meal time into a war zone, so we try to keep the peace but still make them try stuff. I am looking forward to making your home made nuggets, which is how i found this page. I think they will love them and my oldest can even help us cook them! :) Thanks for sharing!

  55. I just implemented the one bite rule last week. My 3 small daughters are embarrassingly picky, and we used to have huge fights every night at supper over what they would eat. Well, I can see it starting to turn around, while they still don’t like anything new that has been put infront of them, supper is so much more calmer because there is no fighting. They try one bite of everything and then eat the other things on their plates that they do like. I told them I wouldn’t get mad anymore if they just took one bite, and so far it has worked. I guess I can’t force them to like something but maybe one of he odd times, they will eat more than one bite of something. I guess that is the hope. Thanks, I really like your website.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I am thrilled that rule is helping! I agree if everyone knows what to expect at dinner then it will be a lot more pleasant. It may take a couple weeks, but if they decide they like even one new thing it will be so worth it!! Good luck.

  56. What great ideas! I love the part about letting them in on the trick!! Also, the first impression thing is SO important. It’s like that with my hubby – big dessert fan – I make a lot of “healthy” ones – and I only have him try ones that I really think are going to impress him! Great article! I just wrote one too – http://fresh-you.blogspot.com/2012/01/8-trickstips-for-picky-eaters.html and I want to add your article to my post! What a treasure your website is – a lovely, unexpected gift from God! Have a good night!

  57. I have a problem with my kids. There are some food like macaroni, potato, omlet , rice and buckwheat they will eat, however I would like to introduce them to more veggies to eat and meat. We don’t eat sea food (it’s not kosher) and pork but we do eat chicken, beef turkey and it is so hard for me to convince them to eat that. They love those frozen chicken fingers from the store, although I don’t by it no more. What can I do?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Have you tried some of the suggestions on the post like letting them pick out their own veggies and getting them more involved?

  58. I agree with all of your suggestions and try many of them with my own kids.
    That said, I am a very picky eater. I have tried more times than I can count to like veggies. I try to disguise them as best I can in my meals and I still don’t’ like them. I can’t make myself like fish either.
    I realize that most kids saying they don’t like something is kids being kids. And many will eventually learn to like it or outgrow it.
    But some won’t. I know how it feels to be asked over and over to eat something that makes me want to puke, a carrot, despite wanting to like it.

  59. When I found this blog I really wanted to start changing they way my husband and I ate. However, I met some resistance from the hubby. He doesn’t want to give up some of the foods he loves but knows are bad for him. I told him he didn’t have to because I couldn’t see us going on a strict real food diet. He was still resistant and I knew it was going to be difficult. My husband has the palette of a 4 year old. Hates certain veggies isn’t a fan of whole grain pastas, bread, etc. Well I’m excited to share that I have won my first battle. I made homemade Honey Wheat bread for sandwiches and he actully likes it. He even asked this morning, “Now that you have conquered bread, what will be your next food?” I’m thinking spaghetti sauce or pickles. Thanks so much for this blog and helping us become better eaters.

  60. We also have a 1 bite rule. In our home, it is called a “no thank you taste.” By having just one taste, the child can say either no thank you to the rest or yes please, I want more. This stresses their good manners along with getting them to try items and us not having to battle.

    1. Sarah, we have a similar “no thank you” helping. That is what I grew up with it, and so it is used in our house now. Whenever trying new foods, I only serve about one tablespoon of the food, and that is the no thank you helping. Same rule goes when we are at a guests house, everyone has to try with a no thank you helping, and then can go back for more of what they like. It worked great growing up in my house, so I hope we also have similar results as I raise my family now. My dad also had the clean plate club, and would give a special thanks to whoever cleaned their plate first. We never had issues over food growing up, and using the same techniques my son will eat just about anything.

  61. We all think – hey, if they’re hungry enough they’ll eat what we put in front of them, but it is much harder in practice than in theory, isn’t it? We also want our meals to be happy family time but if you’re spending the entire time coaxing or fighting over food, it’s not so happy. The one or two bite rule is great, as is the garden theory -one way I got my young son to eat tomatoes and zucchini was to grow them in our garden. He was so excited to eat what he had grown that he forgot how much he didn’t like veggies!
    Another thing that has really changed his palate as he has gotten older (now fourteen)is by giving him “exotic” foods that many of his friends (we live in a small town in Texas) haven’t tried or even heard of. He likes the noteriety of being known for his “weird” (as if artichoke hearts and sushi were weird!) lunches.

  62. My husband prides himself on his over-consupmtion on Mt Dew. His regular breakfast (if he has one) M-F includes a stop at the gas station for a Dew and a king size candy bar! If he eats poptarts and a glass of milk, that’s actually “healthy” in comparison to his normal choices. He’ll eat local meat and potatoes and sometimes a vegetable with it for dinner. He won’t even eat homemade blueberry muffins or pancakes–only from a box. When I make homemade pancakes, he’ll eat a little bit and then throw the rest of the plate away. Very frustrating!

  63. My sister uses the bribing technique and calls it “a bite for a bite.” She tells her kids they have to take a bite of vegetables, then they can have a bite of something else (usually a fruit). It works like a charm!

    Some of these tips can also be used for adults who are considered “picky eaters.” My step dad hates the idea of anything healthy entering his body (I have no idea why), so my mom has been slowly sneaking things like whole grains and extra vegetables into her cooking. After she tells him what was in his meals, he realizes healthy foods are actually quite pleasing!

    Old or young, these tips are great for those transitioning to a healthier diet!

  64. Another tactic is to offer new foods cooked in different ways. For instance, my 2 year old boy despises cooked carrots. But he’ll devour raw carrot sticks with pleasure! He hates green beans if they’re offered as a lone side dish, but if I put them in stews and casseroles, he eats them with no problem.

  65. So… what do you do when the picky eater is your spouse? ;)

    Thus far my son is still being breastfed, and we have offered unsweetened Stoneyfield yogurt, and a touch of banana pureed into it once recenntly. So far,so good… and that yogurt is TART! ;)

    Anyway… any tips on getting your spouse to eat more real food would be appreciated. It’s not like I can enforce the one-bite rule here… hehe.

    1. Hannah- I’ll try to help! Tell me what things your hubby is picky about. I may be able to help! My ex-husband was very picky and I had to learn to cook around him. Luckily my current husband eats anything -he’s Italian! But I remember what it was like to have to cook for someone who acted like a bigger baby than our infant daughter! :)

    2. Oh my gosh, I’m right there with you! My husband only wants meat. Meat with a side of meat, and meat for dessert!

  66. Just a few ideas for getting little ones involved. I have a two year old so these are very simple ideas. Let them “paint” your pizza crust with olive oil and then tomato sauce. They can also sprinkle on the cheese and toppings. Let them arrange veggies or “fries” on your baking sheet when the meal involves roasted vegetables. Let them shake the salad dressing after you’ve put the ingredients in a spill proof container. My little guy also loves any variation of dumping and stirring. He’s great at mixing up the granola! I have noticed that anything he helps with he is much more likely to eat, and he is very willing to try a new veggie as I’m slicing and dicing as opposed to it just showing up on his plate!

  67. Rebecca ~ Sweet Baby Yams

    My mom always allowed me to pick produce at the store when I was younger. I always had to take a bite of new food before leaving the table. I don’t recall ever being a picky eater, but it’s probably because of the work she did to teach me about real food. Great tips!

  68. i regret all those years i wasted being a picky eater because my parents are limited eaters and never made me try anything new. i didn’t eat a salad until college, try mushrooms until i was 25, try seafood until my late 20s… now i’ll eat anything (except i’m allergic to salmon & hate (after having tried repeatedly) olives) & LOVE tongue, foie, rabbit, etc. trying to get my parents to start eating “crazy” foods too, but they won’t even try things as basic as–gasp!–dark meat chicken.

    1. I think that is very true. When kids see parents eating limited foods they tend to develope the same routine. It’s good for kids to see us try new foods and eat a few bites of food that we might not like, it helps to ease the frustration in our house. Plus we have all been able to try many new and exciting foods that we may have otherwise passed up:)

  69. Jen - Personal Trainer Miami Beach

    Those are great tips! It is very hard to convince “the little ones” to switch to a healthier diet. Especially when they see what other children get to eat.

    I definitely like the idea to let them participate in the process of growing your own veggies. That makes it more fun for them. Isn’t it exiting to try something you have “created” yourself?!

  70. LOVE this! It just so happens that yesterday I posted on my blog about getting kids to like vegetables – and I had a number of similar methods that you mention. :) I especially like the part about telling kids about the hidden foods, which is something I mentioned in my post, as well. We do hidden foods, but the kids are *always* in on the secret. If they’re going to learn to like and appreciate those foods, they have to know they’re eating them! ;) I also talked about our “one-bit” rule, which not only encourages more exposure, but it also teaches them to tolerate a food enough to be polite (esp if they’re away from home and are given that food!), repeated exposure, getting them in on the action w/ planning, prep, cooking. Lots of similar things. Love it! :) I also added our new secret that has really gotten the kids (and us) eating even more veggies, which is really simple. :) http://bit.ly/nTdIz6 Thanks for posting such great tips! Love your site and what you’re doing to help others! :)

  71. I am so happy i found your blog. I have been trying to switch over to no processed food but i am feeling frustrated with the lack of recepie blogs to back that. I have found a lot of raw food blogs but nit many whole food blogs. We are slowly making the transition but i feel this will help us greatly. Thank you

    1. I’m right there with you. Plus, PLUS, so many people use sweeteners, when they don’t use sugar, that do not appear to be natural. And I guess that if you are not doing the processed thing, the last thing you want to add is truvia or something, right? Who knows. Anyway, I found this last night (via comments on this lovely site) that will hopefully help you too. I haven’t had the time to check into h(is)/(er) style but I don’t think it’s raw food.

      http://www.foodrenegade.com/

  72. My husband is an incredibly picky eater, and I came from a family where you tried everyone at least once (and there are very few items I won’t eat now). His family says that he’s tried more food in the 5 years we’ve been together than in the 23 years prior to that lol. Mostly because I just make something and he tries it. If he doesn’t like it, he can make eggs or toast or cereal, but I don’t cook 2 different meals.

    Now, if only I could convince him to make a vegetable each time he cooks…

    1. I wish that worked for my husband! He will not try something if he didn’t already think he would like it. And if I try to make something someone else does that I know he likes, he doesn’t think it will taste the same. I am at the point where i am just letting him fend for himself because nothing I try seems to help. I too came from a family where you had to try everything that was on the plate…his mom fixed the same tasteless food on the same day of every week, so there was no variety and the food wasn’t very good to begin with.

  73. I love these tips! So many great ones. I especially love getting them involved. If they help with picking out and preparing something they’re much more likely to get excited about it and try it.

    One of my favorite tips(mostly because people don’t usually think of it) is presenting new foods at different times during the day instead of at dinner time. My son is very much a morning person and not a night person at all so offering him something new at lunch time always works better than offering something new at dinner. Of course leading by example is really important too so it’s so important to get both parents on board!

  74. I wish my mother read these when I was a little “picky eater”. I may have come out of my food coma before I was 25! (I stress may, I was pretty determined to be picky.)

  75. I think the one bite rule is a good one- the other stuff about helping prepare the meal or helping choose the recipes or ingredients does not work with my daughter.

  76. I think the “one-bite” (two-bite rule in my family) rule is the reason I am not a picky eater today. My mother always made us try at least 2 bites of something before she would let us get up from the table. My parents had missionaries from our church over for dinner last night and one of them was a “picky eater” as a child. He said that it was his first time actually eating a tomato. His companion has learned to ask him if he has ever tried a certain food instead of asking if he likes a certain food because his initial response was no, until he realized that he had never tried it. I agree that having them try at least a bite and continually exposing them to the food will eventually result in them eating the food.

    1. I struggle with this. My oldest is three, and I don’t want to make food a fight so I just keep offering foods (that he doesn’t necessarily try) in hopes the he eventually will eat it. Sometimes I wonder if I should make him try a bite, but I want to go down the path of least resistance, with most success. I guess what I am trying to say is I don’t want to force him to eat a bite of everything on his plate if it is likely to have the opposite effect (making him to refuse it JUST BECAUSE!). Get it? What are your thoughts?

      1. Jennifer,
        I work with young children who have feeding issues…more than the usual toddler picky…and I have found a few things to work pretty well with most kids. i tend to think of a hierarchy of exploring food: food on plate -> touch->pick up (to put in a “no thank you” spot->kiss->lick (or “tickle with tongue”)-> bite-> chew and swallow. You don’t necessarily have to go through each step, but often I have found that once kids know that my only expectation is that they have to kiss something then it is less scary and threatening to them and they try it and will often take a bite on their own as if it was their idea (which is one of the key factors to shared control). I make it fun and non-pressure filled, but make my expectation clear. I also be sure to use the language “You can __ (take a bite, kiss the ___, etc) or “Touch __” rather than “Can you” (where the answer can be “no” and then you have set yourself up for a power struggle) or an emotional plea. Studies have shown that It can take 5-16 times of exposure to a new food before a child truly accepts (or can officially reject and say that they don’t like it). I also talk a lot about the properties of the food while I am eating it (color, shape, crunchy, temp, etc) to take the unknown out of it. Have him help with food prep (even just washing) and choosing a new food to try at the store. Ellyn Satter has good info on her website about ways to encourage healthy eating habits from a young age. Hope you have some success with one of those ideas:)

      2. Thank you for your post Angela! My 6 year old has been in feeding therapy for about a year and it has made all the difference in the world in our family! The “picky eating” just got to be more than we could parent (the tip off was that he would “lose his lunch” if he put something in his mouth that was not to his liking). After reading more about resistant eating and sensory processing issues, I decided to have my son evaluated and he began therapy for his feeding issues using the same exact methods you have described (tolerating it on a plate, touching, playing, kissing, licking, and ultimately chewing). I just want other parents dealing with similar situations that there is help out there for dealing with these issues and that you’re not alone. I love this website and was so excited to see a post on picky eaters, but not all picky eaters are created equal.

      3. Thank you! My son is autistic and we’ve been struggling with feeding issues since he switched to solids…about nine years ago. I’ve been wringing my hands for years with worry because he will gag and sometimes lose his food over textures. Thank you for the “just touch it” approach. It is something that he already does naturally, so I will begin to use this tactic instead of the “one bite” rule that I’ve been trying(and failing)at. The poor thing is anxious over any new item that appears on his plate because he’s afraid it’s going to make him sick.

      4. I have a two year old and we have a one bite rule. My husband came up with it, but he takes the one bite and takes it off the plate so it is the only thing in front of him. Not exactly sure why, but when little dude knows exactly what he has to eat he tries it every time! Often he’ll keep going! That’s what works for us. Also if I let him help so he sees what the food looks like as I’m cooking he gobbles it right up and often tries a bite while we’re cooking. he won’t touch a green pepper on his plate, but he’ll eat half of one while hanging out in the kitchen as we prepare dinner!

      5. 100 Days of Real Food

        I totally hear you and agree it is important not to make big a fight. I do think that you can start a new routine though that involves the one-bite rule where it won’t necessarily be a fight because they will come to expect that rule and it won’t be a surprise. It might be tough for them to get used to the new habit at first, but the thought is eventually they will do it for you just like they make their bed or brush their teeth (even if they don’t like those “chores” either)! If you use a star chart or something to track other chores consider adding the new “one-bite rule” to the list. Try to figure out a way to add it to your reward system and just call it “being an adventurous eater.” I always compliment my older daughter for trying new things and tell her I love it when people are adventurous and aren’t scared to try new foods. Make sure your kids know it is a good and desirable character trait and reward them for it (with something other than candy)! :)

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