It is possible!
If you have a picky eater in your family, mealtimes can be downright frustrating. We all want our kids to be healthy and eat a balanced meal, but it takes a lot of patience to convince picky eaters to try new foods.
Here are our top 8 tips for how to get picky eaters to eat their veggies:
- Set an example: Kids look up to their parents, so it’s important to show them that eating your vegetables can be enjoyable. Make sure to include some sort of vegetable every time you sit down together as a family, and get excited about the food you’re serving. Instead of prefacing the veggies by saying, “You have to try at least one bite of this broccoli,” try saying, “Here’s some delicious roasted broccoli I just made!”
- Get them involved: Take your children with you next time you go to the grocery store. Let them pick out one or two ingredients from the product aisle that they’d like to eat for dinner. For older children, include them in the cooking process. This way, they’ll be proud of the meal they made and more likely to try new foods!
- Make food fun: Young kids will be more likely to try foods if there’s a fun game attached to it. Encourage them to play pretend, such as acting like they are dinosaurs who have to eat all the trees (broccoli) or leaves (spinach) on their plate. You can also turn vegetables into paint brushes and use condiments as paint, like this post from Mealtime Matters. Show them food can be fun!
- Arrange food in fun patterns or shapes: While most adults prefer to have their food mixed together, most young kids like when all their food is separated into different piles. Try forming smiley faces or different shapes with the veggies to make their plate more interesting. Check out these food art lunches and our creativity tools for more inspiration.
- Enforce the one-bite rule: Multiple studies have shown that children have to be exposed to new foods 8-10 times before they’re accepted. Make it a known rule at mealtime that your kids have to try at least one mouthful of a new food. But don’t force it- if they don’t like the food, don’t punish them. Simply try it again, prepared differently, a few weeks later.
- Try one new food at a time: Make sure that each plate includes one new vegetable along with foods that you know your child likes. You’ll help them ease into trying new things by offering one unfamiliar food along with some comforting choices without overwhelming them.
- Reward good behavior: Try a reward system, like giving them a sticker every time they try a bite of a food they don’t like. Keep a daily chart and add stickers to show them their progress. When they reach a certain amount of stickers, you can reward them with a small new toy or dessert.
- Explain why the food is good for them: Do this in terms they’ll understand. Instead of saying, “This food is healthy for you,” try saying “This food will make you grow up big and strong.” They’ll be more likely to try new foods if the outcome is something they want.
With a little bit of patience and cooperation, you can gradually introduce new foods into your picky eater’s diet! What do you do to get your kids to try new foods?