picky eaters

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters

by Sally on January 12, 2015

10 Tips for Pleasing Your Picky EaterMy younger son is usually the toughest customer at the dinner table every night. But when he was about five years old, he asked me, “Mommy, what’s a picky eater?” I was glad he didn’t know what it was, because that meant he was never labeled as one.

So while I don’t advocate for calling kids “picky”, I do use the term here on my blog because it’s one we all know. It sums up the garden variety food refusals that a lot of parents encounter with their young kids–refusals that can make mealtime hard. (Learn more about what might be going through your child’s head during this stage: What Your Child Wants to Tell You About Picky Eating.)

So if you’re in that boat with your kids right now, here are 10 tricks that just might help:

1. Make “Zebra Pasta” 

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom NutritionIf your family isn’t sold on whole wheat pasta, mix half and half with white pasta and give it a silly name.

2. Serve veggies in unexpected way

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom Nutrition

 At snack time or as a pre-dinner appetizer, put some veggies in an unexpected container, like a glass, mug, or measuring cup. That curveball may be enough to make them more enticing.

3. Or keep veggies big

10 Tips for Pleasing Picky Eaters

This is another way that serving veggies in unexpected ways can lead to happy results! Keeping veggies big–even leaving the green tops on carrots and celery–can be fun for kids. I used to ask my son if he wanted his carrot big “like a bunny” or stalk of celery big “like the Wonder Pets”.

4. Pack a checkerboard sandwich

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom Nutrition

This fun lunchbox surprise is a good compromise if your kids like white bread but you want them to eat whole grain. Use one slice of white bread, one slice of whole grain, then cut into six pieces and flip three of them to create a checkerboard.

5. Put food on a stick

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom NutritionI don’t know about your kids, but mine love eating stuff off a stick: fruit, meat, or veggies. Pick up a bag of wooden skewers at the store–or use lollipop sticks, which aren’t as sharp.

6. Puree onions into a paste

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom NutritionI like using onion in recipes, but my kids don’t like finding pieces of slippery onion in their food. So I quarter an onion and puree it in my mini chopper until it becomes a paste. You get all the onion flavor but without the onion bits. I sometimes make multiple batches and freeze them flat in zip-top bags.

7. Use white pepper instead of black

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom Nutrition

I heard this idea from a friend and thought it was genius, especially since my younger son’s pepper radar is always on high alert. If you’ve got a child (like mine) who will balk at a food if there are visible pepper flecks–but you still want the pepper flavor–swap out black pepper for white, which disappears more easily into food.

8. Roast veggies

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom Nutrition

Roasting makes veggies crisp and brings out their natural sweetness. Roast broccoli, carrots, asparagus, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, you name it. Just toss veggies in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until brown and crisp.

9. Create a buffet

10 Tips For Pleasing Picky Eaters by Real Mom Nutrition

Kids like having control, so try putting meal components in dishes and letting everyone choose what they want. They may not take everything–and that’s okay. But giving choices reduces the pressure on them, which may lessen some of their resistance.

10. Have fun!

10 Ways to Please your Picky Eater by Real Mom Nutrition Ask your kids to be recipe reviewers, rating foods on different scales (taste, aroma, appearance) or how well they like it. You can download and print this free Recipe Reviewers Chart (shown above) from the Meal Makeover Moms. For more ways to add fun to dinner, including playing “restaurant” and other games, read 6 Ways to Add Fun to Family Dinner.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips that work for your kids? Please share!


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My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2014

by Sally on December 28, 2014

Thanks for making 2014 a great year at Real Mom Nutrition! In case you missed any of them (or are new to my blog), here are my 10 most-read blog posts of the year:

Naturally-Colored Holiday Frosting from Real Mom Nutrition

1. Naturally Colored Frosting

Easy recipes for red and green frosting using natural dyes made from beets and spinach.

10 Kitchen Tricks That Save Time & Money -- Real Mom Nutrition

2. My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tricks

Bread dough not rising? Missing an egg for a recipe? Here are my best tips and tricks for saving time and money in the kitchen.

From-Scratch Cooking Confessional by Real Mom Nutrition

3. From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!

Why making everything from scratch isn’t possible for me–and why that’s okay.

20 Fruit & Veggie Team Snacks  from Real Mom Nutrition

 4. 20 Healthy Team Snacks For Kids

Bring healthy team snacks to your child’s next game. Here are 20 ideas.

5 Healthy (Packaged) Snacks For School

5 Grab-and-Go Healthy School Snacks

Nutritious munchies to tuck into lunchboxes and backpacks.

Salami and tomato skewer lunch

6. Your Child’s Lunch Makes Me Feel Inferior

If you’ve ever felt intimidated by lunchbox photos on Facebook and Pinterest, here’s why you should relax.

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

7. 5 Food I Don’t Buy Anymore

The stuff I always make from scratch for my family, including taco seasoning and waffles (with recipes!).

4 Foods I've Changed My Mind About by Real Mom Nutrition

8. 4 Foods I’ve Changed My Mind About

From local eggs to organic meat, here are four of the biggest ways I’ve changed how I feed my family.



 9. What Your Child Wants To Tell You About Picking Eating

Frustrated by your child’s picky eating? Dietitian Maryann Jacobson of Raise Healthy Eaters explains eight of the most common (and frustrating) eating behaviors.

Boo-nana Ghosts: Healthy Treats for Classroom Halloween Parties

 10. 8 Healthy Treats For Classroom Halloween Parties

Treats for Halloween classroom parties that are healthy and simple to make.



In Defense Of Ranch Dressing

November 6, 2014

There’s a bottle of ranch dressing in my refrigerator. It’s not homemade. Its not organic. It has preservatives and added sweetener and artificial flavor. But because of this dressing, my ten year old eats baby carrots and bell peppers in his lunchbox and digs into green salads several nights a week. I have mixed feelings about […]

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5 Tips for Easing Mealtime Stress

June 18, 2014

Whenever a new mom tells me what a great eater her one year old is, I smile politely and say something encouraging like, “Gee, that’s great!” But I’m actually thinking, “You don’t even know what’s coming!” Feeding toddlers can be challenging–after all, their growth has slowed (which can lower appetite) and they’re testing out their newfound independence. […]

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Want Successful Eaters? Combat the Craziness!

May 13, 2014

Are my kids perfect eaters? No way! Neither am I. (Anyway, there’s no such thing–read: “The Myth of Perfect Eating“). But I do hope my kids don’t follow in my finicky eater footsteps and instead, become what psychologist Dr. Kathleen Cuneo calls “successful eaters”. Successful eaters don’t have to happily gobble up everything you put in front […]

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The Kind Of Eater I Want My Kids To Be

May 6, 2014

I don’t label my kids “good eaters”, just as I’ve never called them “bad eaters”–even when they’ve made me c-r-a-z-y (read “Dinner Drama“). Instead, I want to be able to call them “successful eaters”. I heard the term “successful eater” from psychologist and parent coach Kathleen Cuneo, PhD, who describes a successful eater as someone who, among […]

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6 Ways to Add Fun to Family Dinner

January 15, 2014

  On a recent Sunday, my husband and I were cooking together, and the boys were pretending we were on a cooking show. It extended to dinner time, when they wanted to judge the dish (a new-to-them chili). So we asked them to rate the chili on a scale of 1-5 for various categories like […]

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“Help! My child eats hardly any dinner…then wants a snack 10 minutes later!” Sound familiar?

January 10, 2014

This week, I reached out to readers on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page asking for their most frustrating feeding dilemma when it came to their kids–and promised that feeding expert and parent educator Dr. Dina Rose would address one of them on this blog. Dr. Rose, who is full of effective strategies for diffusing […]

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{Giveaway} It’s Not About the Broccoli

January 8, 2014

Three years ago when Sam was a toddler, he went on a strike. A dinner strike to be exact. It went on for months, with Sam sometimes eating no more for dinner than a lick of ketchup or a couple bites of fruit. I nearly lost my mind. (read: “Dinner Drama“). So I got in […]

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The Myth of Perfect Eating

November 19, 2013

This is what happens when my kids get hold of the camera: Me, caught in a moment of mom fatigue, surrounded by piles. Definitely not suitable for posting on Facebook. After all, there’s a reason it earned the nickname “Fakebook”: We put our very best selves on display for the world (or at least our “friends”) […]

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