How to Get A Picky Eater to Try New Foods (3 Clever Tricks)

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Got yourself a picky eater? Wondering if your toddler or preschooler will ever touch a vegetable? Here’s three clever tricks to put an end to food battles once and for all.

“When I have kids, they won’t be eating junk,” I said to myself.

That was obviously before I had kids. Because we are all perfect parents before we have kids, right?

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For a while, I actually did do a pretty good job keeping “junk food” away from my oldest baby. Little Bo’s first food was avocado, and. the sweetest thing she ate for a long time was fruit. She ate only “real” food: veggies, grains, fruits and meats. We didn’t do a smash cake at her first birthday, and she was over 2 before she ever tasted a bite of french fry or sampled a lick of accidentally-discovered chocolate. I was feeling pretty good about it.

But before you think I’m some full-of-herself-sanctimommy, just know that not long after I got pregnant with our second baby, all that good eating went straight out the window.

how to get a picky eater to try new foods with 3 clever tricks

In my first trimester of my second pregnancy I had the discriminating palate of a 6 year old. French fries sounded really good. So did some good ol’ Kraft Mac n Cheese. Little Bo wanted a bite, and I made the mistake of obliging.

Now, the little girl who was once happy to gulp down avocado pieces, strawberries, and roasted sweet potato would only eat chicken nuggets, pasta, and bread.

Little Bo snacking on avocado chunks and roasted brussels sprouts
Snacking on avocado chunks and roasted brussels sprouts…back when we would eat veggies

It was the first few steps down a road of picky eating that I tell myself probably would have happened at some point anyway. But its inevitability didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

Fortunately, toddlers are resilient. And even though she ate like this for the better part of a year, she was otherwise happy and healthy. I have to admit though, her eating habits started to really bother me, and I knew I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what.

Here are three strategies to curb picky eating that ended up working really well for us.

Strategy #1: Sneak Veggies Into Foods

Sneaking veggies into foods is a pretty common trick that proved very effective.

Veggie fritters made with zucchini and sweet potato are a great way to sneak veggies into a picky eater.

Fritters were a great way to sneak in carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato. Grate up your veggies, squeeze out the moisture, add some egg, a little bit of flour, salt and pepper, and fry them up in your oil of choice.

Veggie fritters made with zucchini and sweet potato are a great way to sneak veggies into a picky eater.

I tried my hand at green smoothies for a while, too, because you can hide ALL SORTS of green things in these bad boys! Spinach is my personal favorite. Pair it with a banana, avocado for creaminess, some almonds, milk, ice, chia seeds, ground flax (and any other fruit I might have lying around), then blend it up in a Nutribullet.

Green smoothie made with spinach, banana, chia seeds, ground flax, almond milk and slivered almonds.

Since my daughter was a pasta fiend, I also used my Nutribullet to blend up zucchini and bell pepper into my spaghetti sauce. She was none the wiser!

Basically, as long as I paired some kind of bread-y, carb-y food with what we were eating, dinnertime was less of a struggle. Quiche is an excellent example of the power carbs held over my daughter. She doesn’t like eggs, or ham, or broccoli, but put a little pie crust on the fork and she’ll eat all those things!

Eventually though, effective as it was, sneaking veggies into my kid proved to still limit what I could effectively feed her, so I needed another strategy.

Strategy #2: the solution to food battles

It goes something like this: Mom decides WHEN snack and mealtimes are, as well as WHAT options will be served for dinner. The child decides IF and HOW MUCH he or she will eat.

This kind of advice is often recommended by experts, and it has worked really well for us! I make sure to offer options I know she is likely to eat along with new foods, and I frequently remind her: You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to!

I was pleased when the tension at the dinner table dissipated. But I was even more pleased when, just a few weeks ago, this happened totally by accident:

Strategy #3: GET THEM INVOLVED

When we started doing homeschool preschool, I made a point to have my daughter help me cook dinner every night–or at least watch.

Not only was she all over the idea, but she was suddenly eager to taste what we were making. The little girl who wouldn’t touch green foods with a 39-and-a-half foot pole was handing me a stalk of raw swiss chard and asking if she could have a bite.

Um…what?!

She doesn’t always love what she tries, but she’s much more willing to try when she “helps” cook dinner. Maybe it’s because she feels more ownership over the meal, I’m not sure. But I’m not going to question something that is working really well for us!

Ever since we started this, she is regularly willing to try foods I couldn’t get past her lips to save my life.

Later, when Little Bo got older and sassier, we also tried some reverse psychology: “Broccoli makes you really strong. I don’t want you to eat too much of that, or you might get stronger than me!” And just like that, the broccoli would disappear.

Now, are these strategies guaranteed to work for your child? Not necessarily. But I think they’re worth a shot!

GET KIDS TO LISTEN AND HELP YOU MORE

Learn the most effective phrase to get kids to listen so that power struggles and meltdowns don’t leave you miserable. Become a happier mom while you raise more helpful kids who cooperate!

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