15 Tips to Help Get Your Picky Eater to Eat

One of the most common questions I get when it comes to meal planning has nothing to do with how to meal plan at all.  Rather, nearly every day someone asks me, “how do you get a picky eater to eat what you meal planned/made?”

Yes, I have picky eaters at my house.  Yes, we have learned a few tips and tricks that help us overcome picky eating so I thought I would share them with you.  Dinner time is more fun and enjoyable when you aren’t in a fight over food, amen?

It goes without saying to keep an eye on your child’s response to food.   One of our children had a hard time eating certain foods and would gag when they were younger,  it wasn’t that he didn’t like the food. It’s important to rule out allergies, intolerances and physiological reasons first.


little girl eating dinner


1. Remember Everyone has food preferences & Be A Role Model

I am sure there are certain foods you don’t love.  I can’t stand olives!  Gross!  We all have food aversions and foods we don’t care to eat.  I also can’t stand a fish that still has its head on, ew!  Kids are no different.  Don’t forget our kids are watching so be a role model when it comes to trying and eating new and different foods.


2. Create a Bite Rule

Since kids often assume they don’t like things before they even try something, it’s important to have them get in the habit of trying at least one new bite of new food.  Ask them to try a “no thank you” bite.

Studies show that we have to try new food between 10-15 times before they “like” it.  So, don’t give up too soon and assume they “don’t like it.”

In our home we also have our kids eat the number of bites they are old to be excused.  So, if they are 4 years old that’s 4 bites of an item.  You could also stick to a 3 bite rule for everyone.  


4. Pair New Food with Food They Like

If you are trying out new meat like shrimp and your child loves tacos, pair the shrimp with a taco.   If it’s a food you know they don’t love, make sure you also have healthy sides like fruits and vegetables that they do love.  

Create connections between food.  If your child refuses to try asparagus but they love green beans, help them make a connection that both are green.


5. Serve A Food in A New Way

Maybe it’s not the food they dislike but rather the way it’s prepared.  I don’t love cooked carrots but I love raw carrots.  How can you serve food your kids don’t love in a new and different way?


6.  Let Your Child Experience the Food

Let your child experience the food with all 5 senses.  Allow them to smell it, touch it and maybe even just lick it.  

grocery shop with picky eaters


7.  Invite Your Kids to Help Meal Plan

Kids love to have some control and say, who doesn’t?  So, if your kids aren’t loving what you are serving, ask them what they would like for dinner.  Then, pick a meal they want and add it to the meal plan.  If they want macaroni and cheese one night, great!  Then, serve something you want another night.  Then, invite kids to go to the grocery store with you to pick out the food.  


 8.  Offer Choose Your Own Adventure Meals

We also called these “bar” nights.  Think taco bar, salad bar, or pasta bar.  Leave the foods “deconstructed” and let them choose their own adventure so to speak as they put the foods on their plate.   Give them rules like you need to have at least one vegetable, one fruit, and one meat and let them choose how they do it.


9.  Limit Snacks

We all eat better when we are hungry.  I don’t know about your kids but my kids LOVE snacks.  They would eat snacks all day long if I let them but when we fill our bellies with preferred snacks we are less likely to try new things.


cook with picky eaters


10.  Have Kids Help in the Kitchen

I know it can be messy and chaotic to have kids joining you in preparing dinner but occasionally invite them to prepare dinner with you.  They will have a sense of pride and will be more inclined to try the food they prepared.


11.  Communicate Why

It’s important we let our kids know we have food preferences too.  Explain to your children that different foods help nourish and fuel our body so we can be strong and healthy.  


12.  Offer Praise

Don’t forget the power of praise.  Praise them profusely when they try new things.  We all love positive reinforcement and we are more inclined to do it again!


13.  Offer Condiments

I don’t know what it is about ketchup but my two-year-old will dip ANYTHING in ketchup including fruit.  He loves it.  


14.  Be Consistent

Whatever you decide is your family’s policy stick to it.  You know your kids best so what you decide for your family is the right choice.  Just keep the policy simple and be consistent, they can sniff out inconsistency quick.

switch up dinner with picky eaters


15.  Make Mealtime Fun

Instead of a fork, try letting them eat it with a toothpick.  Grab plates that are divided so their foods can stay separate.  Skip the table all together and dine on a picnic blanket.  If things are stressful at the dinner table, think about how you can make it less of a fight and more fun again!  One of my kid’s favorite parts of mealtime is sharing their highs and lows from the day.  We call them roses & thorns!



Just remember this when it comes to your picky eater…

Food doesn’t have to be a fight.  You also don’t have to eat chicken nuggets for the rest of your life and you don’t have to cook a different meal for each family member.  

Trying new things or in this case, new foods is an important life lesson.  If you don’t try something, you might just be missing out on something great.  You won’t know unless you try! Don’t give up on your picky eater too soon, you’ve got this!   How do you get a picky eater to eat?  Share your best tips in the comments below?


Need Some Family Meals Ideas? 


Want help with meal planning?  

I wrote down this recipe along with the rest of my meal ideas for the week in the Simple Purposeful Living 52-week meal planner.  Get yours here.   Join the Meal Plan Simple on Purpose group on Facebook for more meal planning ideas and support.  Join here.


Until next time keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life!

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