Hey mama, if you have a picky eater in your house, you are not alone. It is totally normal for kids to go through picky stages. Your sweet babe, who once ate anything you put in front of her, is suddenly turning her head and refusing to eat foods she used to love.
Suddenly meal times are a struggle. And struggle might be an understatement.
It can be crushing to see the nourishing meal you took time to prepare being pushed aside. And for a lot of kids, picky eating extends into later years, which can be even more frustrating.
So, take a deep breath, and remember that this too shall pass. But in the meantime, this is how to find picky eaters recipes they will love.
Go shopping together
Ok, I know that shopping with kids can be a stressful experience for many, but hear me out. Letting kids help pick one or two foods they want to try gets them engaged and helps them feel like they have control over their food choices.
Even little ones as young as two can help. Toddlers love to feel like they have a job to do and feel so proud when they help their parents.
A farmer’s market is ideal because it usually ensures a wholesome selection of food. But if that is not available to you, the grocery store works just fine too.
Be sure to set boundaries, but make it fun.
You could try saying something like, “I need your help at the store/farmer’s market. Your job is to pick one new fruit or vegetable that you would like for dinner this week.”
If they enjoy this process, you can expand into other food categories, such as dairy or meat.
For older picky eaters, recipes can be part of how they help out. Ask them to choose one simple recipe they want to try, and then shop for the ingredients to help them get excited about their food.
Help your picky eater learn what food does for their body
There are many reasons behind picky eating—fear of new food isn’t the only one. Newfound independence, stubbornness, and even sensitivity to textures and flavors can contribute.
Sometimes a different perspective on food can help reset some of these feelings. Learning about the science of food can help peak interest in various foods. Teaching kids about where food comes from and how special nutrients help our bodies is much more interesting than the over-used statement, “you need to eat it because it’s good for you.”
This can be as simple as teaching by color, “orange food helps you see in the dark,” or “meat makes your muscles strong so you can run faster.”
Along with this is guiding your child to begin associating foods with their feelings. A good starting place is to help them identify how hunger affects their mood. If they have meltdowns when they’re hungry or tired and feel better after eating something nourishing, point this out to them.
This could sound like, “I noticed you seem happier after eating that snack. Do you think that when you’re hungry, it makes you feel grumpy?”
Then, you can begin helping them see the association between eating sugary foods and their mood. Just like adults, kids’ blood sugar can spike and crash when eating too many refined carbohydrates like gummies, crackers, and fruit juice. These sugar highs and lows can directly affect mood and energy levels, resulting in tantrums, emotional outbursts, or stomach aches.
If you want to dive into the science behind how food nourishes our body, mind, and spirit, my holistic homeschool nutrition curriculum for first through sixth graders will teach you all of this and more.
Click here to receive a free lesson and see if the program is the right fit for your family.
Don’t give up on your picky eater
A common mistake with picky eating is giving up: “Oh, my child won’t eat that. They only like X, Y, Z.”
And then only X, Y, and Z are served.
This further limits what your child is exposed to and can make picky eating worse.
Even if you are making a recipe you aren’t sure your child will like, put a small portion on their plate or offer them a serving. Give them the opportunity to say no (or yes!) instead of answering for them.
Offer them the new food, along with a portion of healthy food on their “approved list.” Let them know they can taste the new food if they want, but the choice is theirs.
Hearing no over and over is so frustrating, but remember that taste preferences change over time. Eventually, your picky eater will probably taste that food and like it—it just may take a while.
Let them help in the kitchen
Similar to letting them help with the weekly shopping, letting your picky eater help prepare a meal helps them feel in control. Kids are often very excited to try whatever they make and are proud to share with others.
If you haven’t cooked with children before, you deserve a fair warning—it can be stressful.
Depending on your personality type, cooking with kids requires a relaxed and fun mood. Things will get messy. So, if you are already having a stressful day, inviting kids into the kitchen might not be the best idea. Plan for a day when you have spare time and pick a recipe that doesn’t require perfection. This will ensure you and your little chef both have a wonderful experience.
Kids love to cook, and they love to help. This means that they are usually happy with a small task. Measuring, mixing, and even chopping (I love these kid-safe knives) are great jobs for kids. If the ingredient is safe to eat raw, let them nibble as they cook.
Cooking together can help your child discover new tastes, and they might realize they actually like the raw form of a food that they usually despise when cooked. For instance, raw broccoli has a different flavor and texture than roasted or steamed broccoli.
Experimenting with different shapes, textures, and combinations can also help win over picky eaters. Shredded carrots may be more fun to eat than carrot sticks, and peaches or bananas may be more appealing when dipped in cinnamon.
My go-to picky eaters recipes
My favorite kid-approved recipe is…
Edible Protein-Packed Cookie Dough
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter or coconut oil
- 1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of Himalayan sea salt
- 1/4 cup collagen powder
- 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
- Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips into a blender. Blend until well mixed.
- Add dark chocolate chips and stir until combined.
NOTES: Experiment with other mix-ins including nuts, sprinkles, cacao powder, and coconut shreds.
Do you have any tried and true tips for picky eaters? Share with us below!