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Dealing with a picky eater can be challenging. With this picky eater food list, you’ll have tons of ideas at your fingertips to try on your picky one.
Strategies for picky eating
There are several strategies that may help:
- Introduce New Foods Gradually: Start by adding a small amount of new food to the plate alongside familiar favorites. Don’t force the child to eat the new food, but encourage them to try a little bit each time it’s served. Just offer. Eat it in front of them. They can ask to try it when they are ready.
- Keep Regular Meal and Snack Times: Predictable meal and snack times help children feel more comfortable about eating and can reduce “grazing,” which might diminish their appetite for meals. And remember milk and juice fill kids up too. So give them water between meals. And reasonable servings of milk and juice. Three-fourths of a cup is a serving size of milk for young kids and 1/2 cup of juice. Those sippy cups hold several cups of liquid. Your child might not be eating because they would rather have milk.
- Make Meals Enjoyable: Keep the atmosphere at mealtimes relaxed and positive. If meal times are stressful, kids may associate this stress with food and become even more resistant to eating. This is the biggest thing I see in my home daycare. Parents are nervous about their kids eating enough so they badger them to eat and it makes meal time stressful so they eat less. I also remember this as a child.
- Be a Role Model: Show your child that you enjoy eating a variety of foods. Kids are often more willing to try new foods if they see adults enjoying them. Anyone can learn to eat healthy even if they hate vegetables.
- Involve Your Child in Food Preparation: Depending on their age, kids can help wash vegetables, stir ingredients, or set the table. Being involved in meal preparation can make them more interested in the food and more likely to try it. Cooking with kids has so many benefits.
- Avoid Food as a Reward or Punishment: Using food as a reward or punishment can create unhealthy associations with food. Instead, reward good behavior with non-food items or activities they enjoy. I know I still struggle with my weight because I want to use food as a reward.
- Be Patient and Consistent: Change takes time. Even if your child only takes a few bites of new food, consider that a success. Keep offering a variety of foods without forcing them to eat.
- Consult a Professional: If you’re concerned about your child’s picky eating habits affecting their health, growth, or development, consult a pediatrician or a registered dietitian.
Remember that being a picky eater is quite common in childhood and is often just a phase. However, it’s important to continue introducing a variety of foods and healthy eating habits during this time. You can also enhance nutrition in what kids do like such as spaghetti or mac and cheese with green powder or other nutritious supplements. I am the queen of hiding vegetables in a way that doesn’t affect flavor or texture and it’s been working for decades on over 100 kids.
Common Foods Picky Eaters Don’t Like
It’s helpful to understand why certain foods are challenging to picky eaters so you can start in a realistic place when offering new foods. While every kid is different, commonly refused foods include:
- Stinky vegetables: When planning meals for picky eaters, many parents find their kids prefer not to eat strong-smelling vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, or brussels sprouts.
- Seafood: Some picky eaters might be bothered by the strong smell and fishy taste of seafood. Some kids love it, so consider trying it, but remember that may be a problem.
- Spicy Foods: Spicy foods such as wasabi, horseradish, hot peppers or black pepper might be too spicy for young children. So use them with caution.
- Sauces: Toppings such as sour cream, mayo, bbq sauce and more might be a turn off for picky kids. Some, on the other hand, can’t get enough of them, so try both ways and see what your picky eater responds to.
Here is a picky eater food list that most kids like. (I’m an expert, I’ve seen it all. And I have a sensory issue of my own that makes me more finicky than some people) Keep in mind that tastes can vary greatly from person to person, and this is by no means an exhaustive list:
Healthy meals for picky eaters
- Chicken Rotel Spaghetti
- macaroni and cheese
- pasta with butter and parmesan
- Kids love pasta and it helps engage them in a dish. I make my own homemade hamburger helper for my daycare kids. And these other pasta dishes:
- Pepperoni Pizza Pasta Bake
- One Pan Cheeseburger Pasta
- Chicken noodle soup
- Pizza: Simple flavors like cheese or pepperoni are usually popular. And there are so many pizza flavored dishes or simple ways to make pizza, check out the pizza post for a ton of ideas.
- Chicken: Baked, fried, or grilled chicken tend to be favorites. Chicken nuggets or tenders are also usually a hit.
- Fish sticks: A good way to introduce seafood.
- Rice: Plain rice or lightly flavored rice dishes can be a good option.
- Grilled cheese sandwich: Classic comfort food that is generally well-liked.
- oranges, clemintines
- Vegetables: Roasting vegetables is a great way to make them taste great!
- sweet potatoes
- Bread: Toast, bagels, or other types of bread could be on the list.
- Tortillas: Anything rolled in a tortilla or just plain tortillas are always a hit.
- Cereal: Both hot (like oatmeal) and cold varieties can be well-liked.
- Yogurt: Plain or fruit-flavored yogurts can be a good choice. It’s great for parfaits if your kids will eat mixed foods.
- Eggs: Scrambled, boiled, or in an omelet.
- Pancakes/Waffles: These can be served with a little syrup or fruit.
- String cheese
- Sliced cheese
- Cheese cubes
- Cottage cheese
- Smoothies: A tasty way to sneak in fruits and sometimes even veggies.
- Peanut Butter
- Roasted chickpeas
Remember, it’s important to gradually introduce new foods from the picky eater food list slowly and continue to offer them, even if the toddler initially rejects them. It often takes multiple exposures for a child to accept a new food. It’s also a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or dietitian to make sure the toddler is getting a balanced diet. Make sure to also pay attention to any potential food allergies.