We hear it all the time: some kids are just picky eaters. It's no secret that kids gravitate to sweet foods and don't find vegetables to be that delicious. Many of us might not be that in love with vegetables, either, but we know that we have to eat them in order to be healthy. It's all part of taking care of ourselves.
Of course, a three-year-old isn't going to think, "I want to eat well and eat this pile of kale." Instead, they're more likely to ask for cookies and cake... and we can't really blame them since we wish we could eat those regularly as well.
When I was a kid, I loved eating fruit and veggies because I loved how colorful they were, but I definitely had a huge sweet tooth as well. My dad and I had a whole shelf in our kitchen devoted to candy (even when it wasn't Halloween). I was no stranger to wanting the cheese melted on my broccoli before I would eat it, though.
There are some actions to take and some ways to get children eating, so let's take a look at them. Here are 20 ways that moms can trick a picky eater, along with five signs that they're tricking mom.
Let's start with the 20 things mom can do to get her kid to eat...
25 Have Kids Lend A Helping Hand
Moms know that baking cookies is a fun activity to do with their kids, and having them help with other meals can be a good way to trick a picky eater into becoming more invested in meal times.
According to Today's Parent, it's a great idea for moms to have their kids help out in the kitchen. The publication suggests a few things that young children can do: "Offer your toddler a choice of ingredients to toss in the blender for her morning smoothie, for example, or let her use a cookie cutter to create fun sandwich shapes."
24 Think About Dessert More Carefully
We know that if there's one thing that children are always up for, it's dessert.
Sometimes parents will tell their kids that they can't have ice cream or another treat until they eat their dinner or a certain amount of vegetables.
The Mayo Clinic doesn't suggest this. They say, "Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child's desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices."
23 Don't Show Stress
ScaryMommy has a really awesome idea for dealing with picky eaters: don't show stress.
This mom writes, "Avoid negative associations. If your child senses your stress level rising with each meal there is the potential for him/her to build up a negative association with eating."
Sure, moms are going to be stressed out if their kid isn't eating very much or only wants to eat the same stuff over and over again, but keeping things peaceful and happy is always going to be a good thing.
22 Start A Vegetable Garden
Some of us have a green thumb, and others aren't so big on planting flowers and the like. It turns out that starting a vegetable garden could actually be a cool way to help picky eaters, so it's something that moms might want to consider. This cool tip comes from Care.com.
We can see it now: our little ones helping us plant seeds and seeing the veggies grow. It would be an enjoyable thing to do together and could help a lot.
21 Let Them Touch Their Food
As Parents.com suggests, it's not a bad idea for kids to "play" with their food, "If he moves a vegetable around, pulls it apart with his fingers, or sniffs it, then he’s at least getting more familiar with its look and feel."
Good idea, right? If kids can touch their food, they can become used to it, and we can see how this would work.
As all moms know, getting a picky eater to, well, eat, isn't going to happen overnight or in five seconds. It's a process and this is a smart thing to do.
20 Serve Three Meals A Day
If moms want to trick their child into transitioning from a picky eater into a regular eater, then they can do this: serve three meals a day.
We know that kids love snacks. When we think about food that we would assume appeals to children, it's junk food and also snack food. Pretzels, cookies, crackers -- these are all what kids love to eat.
The problem is that they get full. Today's Parents notes that kids like to eat snacks a lot but that's not healthy. They need to eat three meals a day.
19 Eat Dinner With Their Friend Who Eats Well
Your kid might be interested in trying something because they see their friend eating it. This is the idea behind this tip from Today's Parent: have dinner with your kid's friend who eats super well.
This is a really clever idea, especially if moms have been scratching their heads with ways to get their kids to try different foods and not eat the same thing over and over again.
Sometimes approaching the situation from a different angle is a good idea, and that's exactly what can happen here.
18 Make Veggies Taste Better
When a kid is a picky eater, vegetables are basically their biggest nightmare. They don't want to look at them, let alone eat them.
What's a mom to do?
Very Well Family says that making them more delicious is the name of the game here. The publication suggests, "Sweetening vegetables can be done a number of ways. You can top them with a little mild vinegar, lemon juice or honey, or you can add caramelized onions to them. Many recipes for caramelized onions say to slice the onions, but kids have an easier time with them if the onions are chopped."
17 Think Of Colorful Foods
Kids are definitely going to want to eat food that is colorful. They also could come around and eat different types of food if moms serve them up various dinners.
As the mom behind Mama Natural says, "Kids like to try different tastes if we start early. My goal is to rotate fruits, vegetables, starches, and proteins as much as I can. I also dress foods with spices and condiments. (My guy loves spicy Dijon mustard! Who knew?)"
This makes sense: if kids are always given the same food, then maybe they're going to get picky and eat the same food. Trying different things is never a bad idea.
16 Wait Until They Want To Eat To Try Something Different
Have moms tried to give their picky eater something new, only to have them shake their heads and say that they wouldn't try it? It's possible that their child was super full and that was another reason why they weren't interested. According to ScaryMommy,
"Offer a new item when your child is hungry [to make them want to try it]. When they’re hungry they are more likely to give it a try."
We love this idea because it's practical and logical. Moms could find that this is one thing that really helps solve the picky eating problem.
15 Get Super Fun And Artistic
Do we remember our own moms pretending that their spoon was an airplane going right into our mouths? It's possible that our moms played tons of games with us when we were babies and toddlers so we would eat.
We can do the same thing today. This tip comes from Very Well Family and it's all about making food fun. As this mom writes, "When my son was little, he was a very, very picky eater. I tried almost everything to get him to get something other than milk, fruit, and bread. One day I saw chicken tenders shaped like dinosaurs. My son loved dinosaurs so I thought he'd like them, even though he didn't like chicken. I was right."
14 Mix A New Item With A Fave
What about giving kids a food that they absolutely love along with new food?
This great idea comes from WebMD: "You can also try mixing a new item with a tried-and-true favorite."
There are so many ways that moms can use this trick. They could make homemade pizza with their kid's favorite toppings, like cheese and ham and pineapple for example, and then add a few small mushrooms. Or they could make their kid's favorite pasta dish and put one new type of protein or vegetable in it.
13 Consider A Food Chart
ScaryMommy suggests that moms try a food chart with their kids: "Print out some blank food charts and let them color in the different sections as they eat the corresponding foods. Toddlers and preschoolers love to fill out charts!"
What a fun idea! Moms know that making anything more fun is always going to work with kids. Kids want even a simple errand like going to the grocery store to be a good time, so it's no wonder that they want their meals to be more enjoyable. We think that a food chart sounds perfect and that moms would enjoy this as well.
12 Have Them Try A Tiny Bit And Then More
If we wanted to eat more vegetables and bought a new one at the store that we wanted to try, we might not want to eat two whole plates of it. It's the same idea when moms are trying to get their kids to eat more or different foods.
Parents.com gives the advice that moms can give their kids a little bit of food at first and then at another dinner, give them more. We can see how this would work well, and it's a simple thing for both moms and kids to handle.
11 Serve One Meal, Not A Kid's Meal
We often hear moms saying that they don't want to be "a short-order cook" and that making two dinners every night is totally exhausting. We can probably all agree that this isn't what we need to be doing.
It's a good idea for moms to give their kids the same meal that everyone else is eating.
As the Mayo Clinic suggests, "Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat."
10 Hide Fruit And Veggies In Meals
Have we heard about hiding fruit and vegetables in meals in order to get picky eaters to eat? We probably have since this is common advice... but it's common for a reason: it really works.
We might not love eating spinach straight up, for example, but if we blend it into a smoothie with fruit and peanut butter and milk, then we won't even notice. It's the same idea.
As the Mayo Clinic suggests, "Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups."
9 Let Them Feed Themselves
Mama Natural suggests that kids feed themselves instead of moms helping them eat. When kids will eat themselves, they'll have fun, and that could turn them into a much better eater.
If moms want to trick their little one who is a picky eater, this could work well since it makes it a much more enjoyable experience. Even toddlers can eat themselves if moms cut up their food into small pieces and make it easier, so this is a tip that works if we have a toddler or a kid who is a bit older.
8 Tiny Amounts Only
Portion control is something that we hear about all the time. Kids definitely eat less than adults do, and that is especially true when they're trying something new.
Karen Le Billon, who wrote French Kids Eat Everything, told Care.com that giving kids tiny amounts is the best way to go. She told the website, "Children have small stomachs, and may feel [unable to eat] large portions on a plate."
Her advice? "Keep portions small, especially when it comes to introducing new foods. If they like it, they'll ask for more, which also gives children a feeling of control." Moms will love hearing their toddler ask them for more of that new food, and this could work really well.
7 Keep Trying
Something that moms can remember is that if they keep trying, they will find success with little ones who are picky eaters. WebMD put it well: "Research shows that kids may need to get a food on their plates five to 10 times before they eat more of it."
If we think about it, this makes sense to us, right? Maybe there was a food that we disliked as kids but then grew to love it, like coconut or olives. Sometimes, kids need a bit of time, and moms can remember that they're doing a great job.
6 Show Them That Eating Healthy Is Fun
If moms want to trick their picky eaters into eating, they can show them that eating healthy is fun. In other words, parents can be "role models" as WebMD suggests.
We often need role models in all aspects of our lives. If we think about how trendy healthy eating has become these days, it's because we see other people (mostly on social media) posting pretty smoothies or talking about how great they feel eating avocado toast for breakfast.
We like to see what other people are doing, and our picky little ones will totally feel the same way. If we focus on eating healthy stuff, they could become more okay with it.
And here are 5 signs that a picky eater is tricking mom...
5 They Won't Eat Food That's Touching
Have we ever heard our kids say that they can't eat something because their food is touching each other?
This is most likely something that we can relate to. According to Momtastic, this is something that picky eaters do a lot: "Food touching each other on the plate [makes everything else taste icky]."
This is definitely a way that picky eaters can trick moms. Moms can be aware of this and have a conversation about how it's cool if foods touch, or perhaps separate the foods if they really want their kid to eat dinner (you have to do what you have to do, right?).
4 They Drink A Lot And Get Full
Watching a kid drink a glass of water or milk is pretty adorable since they hold onto the glass with both hands and often drink the whole thing until it's gone.
There's a problem with kids drinking a lot, though: it could be why a kid is a picky eater. Basically, it makes them super full.
As pediatrician Dr. Jarett Patton told Romper, "Make sure they're not filling their bellies up with milk and juice. If they're thirsty they can have water; water doesn't take away from their appetite."
3 They Get Super Specific
Another way that picky eaters are tricking their moms is being super specific about the food that they will eat.
This mom put it perfectly on Momtastic: "The one acceptable brand of mac 'n' cheese. The one acceptable noodle shape for that brand of mac 'n' cheese." She continued that kids will even talk about the color of the cheese.
Moms are totally nodding their heads right now as this is something that is easy to relate to. It's good to be aware of these things.
2 They Only Want Junk Food
Mommyish mentions that some picky eaters will only want to eat junk food -- in this mom's case, her kid is all about french fries and chicken nuggets.
Since we know that this is something that kids will do, we can work on it. Moms can explain to their kids that junk food is something that we eat every once in a while but not every day and that it's a good idea to eat healthier foods. It's definitely a conversation that needs to happen and it might be a process, but it's worth talking about.
1 They Only Will Eat A Few Foods
Picky eaters might only eat a few foods and they can be very strict about that.
Bundoo says, "Eventually, the list of “likes” grows more narrow until it reflects a limited number of foods the child will eat. This list may be color-coordinated (ie, all white foods), or texture exclusive (only crunchy foods, for example)."
Once moms know why their little one is a picky eater, they can figure out some ways to help them, and then family dinner will be the enjoyable time that we all dream that it can be.