How to Feed Your Picky Eater, Based on What They Won't Eat

Girl who doesn't want to eat her food


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Rae is a graduate of Tufts University
May 27, 2024 at 3:8AM UTC

Is your kid a picky eater? You’re not alone. Even children who are generally willing to try new foods may have one or two foods they refuse to eat. In some cases, they may avoid entire food groups. But just because it's common doesn’t mean it needs to remain the status quo permanently. It’s entirely possible to convince a child to give a food they dislike another try. These tips for picky eaters based on what they won't eat will help.

For the kids who won't eat vegetables...

It’s relatively common for kids to dislike vegetables. Some experts even believe there are genuine scientific reasons for this: as children, our taste buds may be more sensitive to the bitter taste of some veggies. Still, it’s important for kids to get the nutrients vegetables offer. You can start to get your children more comfortable with the idea of eating vegetables by adding them to meals your kids already enjoy. 

For example, you could add bell peppers to pizza, or broccoli to mac and cheese. You might also have success pairing veggies with dips like hummus or ranch. Don’t expect your kids to start loving veggies overnight. They’ll likely need to try them in familiar meals several times before they start enjoying them on their own. However, if you continue introducing vegetables in this manner, your kids will eventually start to tolerate them, and maybe even begin to like them on their own. 

For the kids who won't try ANYTHING new...

Some children are simply unwilling to try new foods. Again, experts point out this is normal. Children often stick to a few meals they know they enjoy if given the choice. Unfortunately, this prevents them from branching out and embracing more nutritious options.

A smart way to change this is to get your children involved in the process of making new meals. They may be more interested in trying them if they helped with the preparation. Pairing new foods with familiar meals can also help in your efforts to expand your child’s palate. As with vegetables, they’ll get more accustomed to different foods if they are introduced via foods they already enjoy.

You also may have to establish certain boundaries. If a child learns you’re willing to prepare a different meal if they don’t enjoy a new food after the first bite, they won’t feel any pressure to try anything new. Be firm with your boundaries making alternative options for them, and they will catch on.

For the kids who won't drink water...

It’s important for your child to develop a taste for water. If they don’t, they may be inclined to consume too many sweet beverages instead. This can lead to everything from obesity to diabetes. If your child isn’t a fan of water, you might be able to change their attitude by simply adding food coloring to make it look more like the type of fun, sweet drink they enjoy. Add fruit or citrus as well to give the water more flavor. It’s also a good idea to let children decide how they want to drink their water. Even something as simple as allowing them to choose a fun straw will help.

No matter what specific food your child dislikes, there are some general fixes you should remember as you work on this problem. The first is to model healthy eating habits; Your child will be more likely to try new foods if they see you are comfortable with them. You could also find out if any of your kid’s friends are more adventurous eaters. Encouraging them to try foods their peers enjoy is another effective tactic.

Most importantly, don’t start a fight. Your goal is to get your children to naturally enjoy the experience of trying new meals. This won’t happen if they associate the experience with negative feelings. 

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Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing for Yumble, of course.

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