Correcting bad habits before they become big problems

Pleasing Picky Eaters

by Shaunna Privratsky


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"Oh, yuck! I'm not trying that!"

How many times have you sat down to the dinner table and heard that from your beloved children? Besides the battle of wills, picky eaters can wreak havoc on a grocery budget, forcing you to buy overpriced, specialty items. The other ominous byproduct of picky eaters is wasting food, which is a direct hit to any wallet. Picky eaters may face future problems with their finances. If they become too accustomed to getting exactly what they want, when they want it, it could lead to major credit card debt or unwise financial decisions. Save your money and your sanity by using these time-tested tips to pinch picky eating in the bud.

  1. Don't force them to finish their plate. When you take some of the pressure off, a lot of fear, resentment, stubbornness and negativity melts away.

  2. Offer the new food in a matter of fact way.

  3. Start with small amounts of a new taste. Do you remember the first time you tried sushi?

  4. Don't make the new food the focus of the meal. Have several favorites to choose from as well.

  5. Presentation is a key weapon in our arsenal. Put out fancy desert cups, cute snack sized plates, or dipping cups with the new food.


  6. Get the kids involved in the process. You can start in the supermarket, when you are buying it, or when you are looking at a new recipe. Or have them help you prepare it. They will see the steps it takes to the final product and will be more willing to try it.

  7. Offer it in a variety of ways. I used to hate tomatoes, but I loved ketchup. My kids are the same, but when I told them their favorite spaghetti sauce was made from tomatoes, they tried some small, grape-sized tomatoes, and now eat them regularly as a snack.

  8. Make sure the foods on the plate don't touch. I know that it seems silly, but a lot of kids refuse to eat "mixed-up" food. I solved this problem by serving the different foods in individual plastic containers. I used some sturdy, applesauce containers that hold approximately a quarter of a cup, which is a good-sized serving for a child.

  9. Don't bargain or bribe the child with dessert or other treats. This sets up a reward/punishment cycle in their view of food that can lead to problems later.
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  11. Have fun with color. If the new food is bright green, for example, you could use safe food dye and make everything green! We did this once and it was a hit. The kids had fun guessing what each item was.

  12. Don't give up. Keep offering the new foods. Experts in parenting magazines say that it may take up to eighteen exposures before a child is willing to eat a new dish.

Take heart, parents. My pediatrician assured me that healthy kids will eat enough and eventually overcome their picky habits. Serve yourself a big helping of patience, and you will get through this stage of your child's life. Use these tips and you will be on the path to healthier eating for your family and a sound financial start for even the youngest family member.


Take the Next Step:

  • Find more advice for feeding picky eaters in the TDS library.
  • Check out our library for more kid-friendly recipes.
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