Nutrition Tips for Picky Kids

Bane Of All Parents - Nourishing the Fussiest Eaters


10/11/20239 min read

woman holding white plastic spoon
woman holding white plastic spoon

Research has shown that the dietary patterns we establish during our formative years tend to become ingrained over time. What children learn about food and nutrition from their parents often shapes their preferences and choices as they grow up. When you make a consistent effort to prioritize healthy eating, you are not just making immediate improvements to your family's well-being; you are also sowing the seeds for a lifetime of wise choices.We've all been there, haven't we?

Picture this: you're in the kitchen, dishing up a lovely, nutritious meal, and you summon all your parental powers of persuasion to convince your little one to take that dreaded bite of greens. It's a scene straight out of a parenting playbook!

In my household, my youngest takes picky eating to a whole new level.

She's got this impressive talent for dissecting her plate and strategically relocating all the veggies to her sister's bowl, hoping to pull off a covert operation.

It's like she's on a mission to avoid anything green on her plate, and if you ask her to take a bite, it's as if you've handed her a spoonful of pure poison. The crying and whining start, and if, by some miracle, she does take a bite, it's as if she's just swallowed a live cockroach.

But here's the kicker: suggest she takes another bite, and her world shatters into a million pieces.

Now, I know many parents out there can relate to this vegetable warfare. Dealing with a picky eater can be a true challenge. But don't lose hope!

In this blog post, we're going to dive deep into the world of picky eaters and explore some super-effective eating tips.

These strategies will help you ensure your child gets all those essential nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, minus the mealtime meltdowns. Let's tackle this together!

Be a Role Model:

Children often mimic their parents' eating habits. Research has shown that children, from a very young age, tend to imitate what they see their parents and caregivers doing. This includes their eating habits. They look up to you as their primary role model. Set a positive example by eating a variety of healthy foods yourself. Show enthusiasm for fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious options. Your child is more likely to be curious and willing to try new foods if they see you enjoying them.

Show, Don't Just Tell:

It can be tempting to simply instruct your kids with a curt, "Eat your veggies!" and leave it at that. However, we all know that this approach seldom yields the desired results. Instead, let's transform mealtime into a family adventure. Cultivate genuine excitement for your greens and those luscious, vibrant fruits. When you bite into a crisp, rainbow-hued bell pepper or savor the succulence of a ripe strawberry, allow that delight to radiate from you. Rest assured, your children are paying attention, even when you think they aren't.

Establishing Lifelong Habits:

The eating habits formed during childhood often persist into adulthood. Research has shown that the dietary patterns we establish during our formative years tend to become ingrained over time. What children learn about food and nutrition from their parents often shapes their preferences and choices as they grow up. When you make a consistent effort to prioritize healthy eating, you are not just making immediate improvements to your family's well-being; you are also sowing the seeds for a lifetime of wise choices.

Teach the "Why":

When it comes to fostering healthy eating habits in your children, it's essential to go beyond just telling them what to eat. Instead, engage in a dialogue and teach them the 'why' behind your choices. By explaining the reasons behind your decisions, you help them grasp the profound impact that healthy foods have on their well-being.

Embrace a Consistent Mealtime Routine:

Creating a steady meal schedule is a valuable strategy for managing picky eaters. Children flourish when they can anticipate what's coming next, so aim to provide three well-balanced meals and a couple of planned snacks at consistent times daily. This routine helps instill healthy eating habits. Discourage excessive snacking throughout the day, as it can diminish their appetite during main mealtimes.

Offer a Variety of Foods:

It's essential to introduce your child to a diverse array of foods from a young age. Incorporate a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and flavors onto their plate. Continuously cycle through a selection of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains to keep mealtimes engaging and enticing.

Stealthy Nutrient Boosting:

There are times when a little sneakiness can be quite beneficial. Why not try blending vegetables into your smoothies or pureeing them into pasta sauces? You can also experiment with integrating grated vegetables into your favorite dishes like muffins or meatballs. These covert nutritional additions can be a smart strategy for enhancing your intake of essential nutrients. I also like to finely dice vegetables and sneak them into rice or noodles for a stealthy nutritional upgrade.

Foster a Nurturing Mealtime Atmosphere:

Ensure that mealtimes are enjoyable and free from stress. Avoid using food as a tool for reward or punishment. Promote open conversation, and minimize distractions such as television or electronic devices. Cultivate a serene atmosphere where your child can fully engage in the act of eating.

Share Food Stories:

Remember those childhood stories your parents or grandparents used to tell you about their favorite foods? Share those tales with your kids. Talk about the incredible flavors of the dishes you enjoyed growing up. Let them in on the secret family recipes that have been passed down for generations. Make food more than just sustenance; make it a part of your family's storytelling tradition.

Celebrate Food Adventures:
person slicing green vegetable in front of round ceramic plates with assorted sliced vegetables during daytime
person slicing green vegetable in front of round ceramic plates with assorted sliced vegetables during daytime

Acknowledging your child's achievements, no matter how modest, is a powerful tool in nurturing their positive eating habits. When your child takes that first, hesitant bite of a new food or conquers a whole serving of vegetables without any resistance, it's an opportunity to celebrate their growth and development in the realm of healthy eating. Here's how you can make these victories even more impactful:

  1. Praise and Positive Reinforcement: Offer genuine words of praise and encouragement. Let them know how proud you are of their willingness to explore new tastes or finish their veggies. This builds their self-esteem and makes them more likely to repeat these positive actions.

  2. High-Fives and Celebratory Gestures: Extend your enthusiasm with physical celebrations like high-fives, claps, or a special food-related handshake. These gestures can turn an ordinary meal into a fun and memorable experience.

  3. Sticker Charts or Reward Systems: To provide extra motivation, consider using a sticker chart or a simple reward system. For each successful encounter with a new food or a well-eaten meal, add a sticker to their chart. Once they reach a certain number of stickers, reward them with a small, healthy treat or a special non-food incentive like a fun outing.

No Shortcuts:

Resist the temptation of quick fixes like an endless supply of chicken nuggets or an abundance of processed snacks. Although these may seem convenient, they won't assist your child in cultivating a diverse and balanced palate. Processed snacks often come with a set of drawbacks – they tend to be high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial additives. Consuming such snacks regularly can lead to a host of issues, including:

  1. Nutritional Gaps: Processed snacks usually lack the essential nutrients that growing children need for proper development. Relying on them can result in nutritional deficiencies.

  2. Unwanted Additives: Many processed snacks contain artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors that are less than ideal for your child's health. Over time, these additives can have negative effects on their well-being.

  3. Sugar Overload: Processed snacks are often loaded with added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay, and erratic energy levels. An excess of sugar can lead to a preference for sweet foods and a reluctance to try healthier options.

  4. Missed Learning Opportunities: By opting for whole, unprocessed foods, you provide your child with the chance to explore a wide variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients, which are essential for building a diverse and balanced palate. These foods offer a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and other essential components that promote growth, cognitive development, and overall health.

Offer Dips and Sauces:

Children often delight in the hands-on experience of dipping their food. Elevate their dining enjoyment by introducing nutritious dips such as hummus, yogurt-based dressings, or nut butter as accompaniments to vegetables or whole-grain crackers. My youngest always enjoy hummus with her carrot sticks. These flavorful condiments not only make eating more interactive but also infuse a sense of fun and delight into their meal.

Empower Them in the Kitchen:

Welcome your child into the heart of your culinary adventures by engaging them in age-appropriate kitchen tasks. When they actively participate in cooking, they have the opportunity to feel a sense of ownership and excitement about the upcoming meal. Consider allowing them to:

  1. Select Ingredients: Encourage them to pick out ingredients for a new recipe or meal. This not only sparks their curiosity but also fosters a connection to the food they choose.

  2. Assist in Food Preparation: Involve them in simple food preparation tasks such as washing vegetables, stirring, or even arranging ingredients. These activities not only teach them valuable kitchen skills but also create a sense of accomplishment.

  3. Explore New Flavors: Use this opportunity to introduce your child to new flavors and textures. They may be more willing to try foods they've helped prepare.

While it might get a little messy at times, the benefits are well worth it. I've seen my own youngest child, who used to have an aversion to vegetables, develop a newfound appreciation for them, particularly mushrooms, just because she was involved in the process of cutting and cooking them. Involving your child in meal preparation is not only a great learning experience but can also be a gateway to fostering a lifelong love for diverse and healthy foods.

Get Creative in the Kitchen:
woman in black tank top sitting on chair
woman in black tank top sitting on chair

Sometimes, it's all about presentation. Turn mealtime into a fun and imaginative experience. Create colorful, eye-catching plates with food arranged in playful patterns or shapes. Use cookie cutters to transform sandwiches and veggies into fun designs. The more appealing the meal looks, the more likely your little one will want to taste it.

Explore Food Cultures:

Open the doors to a fascinating world of global cuisines and ignite your child's curiosity by immersing them in diverse food traditions. Take a culinary tour around the world and savor the flavors of different cultures. Consider creating dishes like tacos from Mexico, sushi from Japan, or pasta from Italy. This delightful journey not only expands their palate but also nurtures an appreciation for the rich tapestry of global diversity.

Farmers Market Fun:

Embark on a family outing to your nearby farmers market, where a vibrant world of fresh produce awaits. Allow your children to explore the diverse array of fruits and vegetables, engage in conversations with local farmers, and even select some items that pique their interest. This enjoyable experience not only connects them with the origins of their food but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the natural bounty that local farms offer.

Cultivate a Green Thumb Together:

If you have the space, embarking on a shared gardening project can be a rewarding endeavor. Starting a small garden with your children allows them to become active participants in the growth of fresh produce and herbs. They'll experience the joy of nurturing their plants and savoring the literal 'fruits' (or veggies) of their labor, fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Patience is Key:

Don't pressure your child to eat new foods or finish their plate. This can create mealtime battles. Instead, encourage them to explore and taste new foods at their own pace. It may take multiple exposures before they accept a new food.

Stay Persistent but Flexible:

Continue offering a variety of foods, even if your child rejects them initially. Taste preferences can change over time. Keep reintroducing foods and be open to adjustments in your approach based on their evolving preferences.

Avoid Food Battles:

Remember, battles over food can be counterproductive. Avoid power struggles and don't force your child to eat something they dislike. Instead, focus on providing a variety of nutritious options and letting them choose.

Consult a Pediatrician or Nutritionist:

If you're concerned about your child's nutrition or selective eating habits, consult a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized guidance and ensure your child is meeting their nutritional needs.


Navigating the challenges of a picky eater can be a journey that tests your patience, but it's important to know that you're not alone in this endeavor. By consistently applying these nutrition tips and creating a supportive mealtime environment, you can lay the foundation for your child's lifelong healthy eating habits.

This journey is about more than just getting your child to eat their greens; it's about nurturing a genuine affection for nutritious foods that will serve them well throughout their lives.

Every small victory, each new taste explored, and every moment of shared mealtime becomes a step toward a healthier and happier future for your child. Embrace the journey with patience, positivity, and a deep appreciation for the impact you're making, one bite at a time.

With love,