FREE Picky Eater E-Book
In this article I provide 10 Tips to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Healthy.
Does feeding picky eaters make you feel like pulling your hair out?
Do you want to eat more plant-based foods but you have picky eaters to feed or you yourself are a picky eater?
You know you need to eat healthy but you don’t know where to start because you or your family just doesn’t like plant-based foods.
Does the thought of eating kale, spinach, broccoli, or anything green for that matter just activate the gag reflex?
I struggled for years trying to successfully feed my picky family when everyone had different tastes. There were always so many “off limits” foods to consider when making meals. After years of struggling, lots of failed experiments, and even more patience (and some meltdowns) I finally found my way through the picky eater dilemma in my house.
These 10 tips for getting picky eaters to eat healthy will help you and your family successfully eat more plant-based foods. To further your success I am providing you with my FREE ebook called 7 Picky Eater Approved Plant-Based Vegan Recipes. It has 2 bonus recipes which equal a total of 9 recipes to get you started with feeding those picky eaters.
I provide these 10 Tips to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Healthy in the following video OR scroll down to read the tips.
10 Tips to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Healthy
1. What do They Like?
Everyone likes at least 1 or 2 healthy foods so always start with what your picky eater likes! If the only plant foods your picky eater likes are potatoes and broccoli, then start with those. Google recipes that include these ingredients and omit or substitute other “offensive” ingredients. There are tons of websites to help you find great recipes and if want to keep it plant-based and healthy check out my many potato or broccoli recipes.
Be a good example by modeling the behavior you desire. DUH! I know you hear this one all the time but it is so true! I will go a step further with this tip by suggesting that you eat in front of the picky eater during a non-stressful time. Kids are generally curious and if you casually eat something new in front of them without any pressure for them to try it they will be curious, especially if they are hungry. This even works for some picky spouses, just keep modeling.
3. No Pressure
Take the pressure off of eating and don’t force! This tip goes alongside tip number one and two. Provide continued exposure to the new foods that you want the picky eater to eat. That means serving it over and over again in different ways and eating it yourself in front of your picky eater but do NOT push it on them, at least at first.
I know this is a hard one, and it is one I struggle with sometimes too. If they really struggle with certain foods, it is very important that they do not feel too much pressure to eat it. Let them see you touching and eating it, then get them to touch it and maybe smell it. After a few times of continued exposure, they may finally taste it. You can also use reverse psychology by saying that you are glad they don’t like it because you get it all to yourself! Just keep bringing the food around and offering it. Generally, they will start to show interest.
Have your picky eater help you Plan, Prepare, Shop, and Help. If your picky eater is involved in helping to plan the meals, shop for them, prepare them and even help serve them they are more apt to try them. Again this tip builds on the others ones and is part of the continued exposure to the “offending” foods. If your husband is the picky eater then have him do this too, no one escapes!
Yes, it is a lot of work for you at first but it pays off in a few short weeks or months so it is worth it!
5. Be a Detective
When a picky eater turns their nose up to a certain food, instead of insisting they eat it anyway, (take a deep breath) then ask them what they don’t like about it. Just because you like certain foods does not mean everyone likes those too so try not to judge and instead be a detective!
Dig deep with your questions. Ask things like, is it the taste (bitter, sweet, sour etc.), the texture (how it feels in their mouth), the smell, the color, or even the other ingredients in the dish with that particular food (combo)? These questions will not only help you to figure out why they don’t like the specific food but might even clue you in on their specific picky eater issues. They may have texture issues or be a sensitive smeller or they don’t like green things (visual).
6. Size Matters
Cut offending ingredients that they picky eater does not like up into very small pieces and don’t add too much! Many picky eaters have texture issues which is a completely separate issue from the taste. My daughter who has special needs has sensory issues but so do I. Chopping up let’s say carrots or green beans into very small pieces helps to not overwhelm their mouth with an undesirable texture and even taste.
Don’t forget about blending if the tiny pieces are still too much. I love a thick and chunky broccoli soup but my kids hate any chunks so I blend it to a completely smooth and creamy consistency and they eat it.
7. No Short-Order Cooks
Avoid being a short-order cook! Again, another one you have probably heard but if you give in on this one it will never end! Unless you are eating a meal of steamed artichokes or some other “offending” food, the picky eater needs to eat what everyone else is eating even if it just one bite alongside a less offensive food.
There is nothing wrong with adjusting things for the picky eater. Let’s say you make spaghetti and you normally like onions, garlic, bell peppers and red lentils in the sauce. The picky eater hates bell peppers! That is ok, cook them separately and add them to yours. Sure, there is an extra pan but you are not making completely different meals and everyone is happy. Over time you may be able to drop a few into their sauce.
8. Portion Size Matters too!
Keep serving sizes small! As I mentioned in tip number 7 if there is anxiety about eating certain foods be sure to serve the “new” offending food with something they like and keep the serving small.
I love serving a salad with dinner but my kids hated almost all the ingredients in a salad, especially lettuce! I decided that I would start small and make a yummy dinner and serve a one bite salad before the dinner. Yup, just one bite is all they had to eat. They usually accepted a one bite salad when they got to eat something they love right after it. I made sure to put ingredients in that they like and keep the things they don’t like (lettuce) minimal and small in size.
My daughter who has Down syndrome & autism (which means texture and sensory issues) has grown from a one bite salad to a normal side salad size. Her texture issues were so bad that lettuce made her gag and sometimes throw up so this is huge for her! Sure, she sometimes pulls out a bigger piece of lettuce and I don’t say a thing. That way, she knows she has some level of control over her food consumption.
9. Presentation presentation presentation!
The way food is presented was a BIG discovery for me. As a food blogger, I always had one plate that was beautiful so I could take a picture of it. Otherwise, I would just slop the food onto the plate and give it to everyone. One day, years ago, my oldest daughter got mad that I always gave the pretty plate to my husband because it looked better than hers did. The funny thing was I did not even realize it at the time but I was giving it to him to help him like the food more. When she complained that she wanted the “pretty one” I realized how important presentation was. They were eating the exact same meal but when it looked pretty it was more appealing to everyone. Duh, I can’t believe I never thought of it before. Everyone loves going out to dinner and one part of it is being served a beautiful meal. Presentation not only means not slopping the food onto the plate but if possible, using cool or beautiful plates and bowls!
10. Don’t Give Up!
Remember that old saying your mom used to say that usually made you roll your eyes into the back of your head? “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again!” Well, guess what, she was right! Keep giving your picky eater new foods, cooked in different ways, presented beautifully and don’t give up!
Did you know that research suggests that it can take 10-15 times for our taste buds to be conditioned to like certain new foods? This is why you should never give up on trying new foods and getting your picky eater to do the same. Sure, you may not like steamed broccoli but you might like broccoli soup or broccoli in your stir-fry. Keep trying new foods served in different ways and if after 10-15 times it is still undesirable, then give it a break for a few months. Keep in mind that things may change in a few months, a year or even 10 years later so don’t give up.
My oldest daughter hated tomatoes in all forms until she was around 16. This included spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce etc. I always reminded her “your tomato taste buds have not come in yet so keep trying”. Well, it took more than 10 years but she loves tomatoes so much now that she slices them up on a big plate and eats them raw with a little salt.
11. BONUS Tip No Restrictions!
Never restrict your picky eater when it comes to healthy foods like fruits and veggies. When shopping let them pick out healthy foods that they love and maybe one new one. Always have these foods available in the house for quick snacks.
Alrighty, so there you go! These tips should help you get started with feeding a picky eater more plant-based vegan food. Be consistent, persistent, and patient. Oh and if you forgot I will remind you again to download my absolutely FREE ebook called “7 Picky Eater Approved Plant-Based Vegan Recipes”.
Do You Have Questions?
If you have any questions please comment below. If you have more tips on how to get picky eaters to eat healthy please share them so we can all learn from each other!
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