Picky Eaters – Getting Kids to Eat Healthy

Picky EaterDo you have a picky-eater in your house? Are you struggling to get your children to eat a healthy, balanced meal because they simply refuse to eat healthy food? Is your picky eater becoming an overweight statistic, willing to only eat fried foods, pizza, hot dogs, waffles and other sugar-coated sweet treats? You may even find yourself feeling like you’ve become a “short order” cook in your own home, serving up cafeteria-style meals for each family member just to keep the peace. If this sounds at all familiar, and you want to learn how to get your picky eater to eat healthy foods and have better health, carefully consider the following:

Children learn what they live, so if parents are not setting the right example, by eating a healthy diet themselves, parents are setting the stage for failure with their own children‘s health. Getting children to eat healthy food needs to begin when children are very young, while their tastes for different foods are still developing. Toddlers and older children can learn to love healthy foods, even if they are now very picky about what they will or will not eat.

“Tara” is a mother of two young daughters, six year old Jessica and five year old Chelsey. While Tara is preparing a healthy and nutritious meal for her husband, she will ask her daughters what they want to eat for dinner because “they hate everything”, ultimately preparing three separate meals in order to “keep the peace” at the dinner table. Tara often complains that she doesn’t like this never-ending ritual, but fails to realize that putting a stop to it is well within her abilities as a parent of these two young girls.

Children that are picky eaters are that way because parents are allowing it to happen. It’s your parental responsibility to make the rules about meals and snacks – not your child or teenagers. If you want your children to eat healthy, then serve them healthy and nutritious meals that the entire family can enjoy together. If your child adamantly refuses to eat the healthy meal set before them, then cover and save their meal in the refrigerator until they later say they’re hungry. Then simply say, “That’s good because I saved your dinner for you”. Reheat and serve the meal to your child. Children that are truly hungry will eat. Children are not harmed by missing a meal or two. It’s important to remember that being a picky eater is a learned behavior, and it will take time and determination on the part of the parents’ to change things around.

Getting your children to learn to love fruits and vegetables can often be accomplished by offering small amounts of dipping sauces, dressings, or flavored low-fat yogurt to dip into. Instead of doling out cookies, brownies, donuts, chips and other high-calorie snacks, keep a variety of well-stocked fresh fruits or vegetables in easy reach of hungry children.

From the time my children were very young, they ate and snacked on fresh and uncooked broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery with peanut butter, and all varieties of fresh fruits. We regularly introduced new items, especially different ethnic foods, and over a period of time learned to love all healthy foods. Sugary sweets such as cakes or cookies were saved for a special treat on weekends, rather than a nearly nightly occurrence following the evening meal.

Changing the behavior of a picky eater may not be an easy task, but nothing about parenting is easy. The sooner parents’ start changing their own attitudes and behaviors towards healthy eating, the sooner they can expect their children to do the same. If you have some tips on getting children to eat right and eat healthy, please add your comments for the discussion.

Helpful Resources-

Getting Children To Eat Right

Just Two More Bites!: Helping Picky Eaters Say Yes to Food

Feeding the Kids: The Flexible, No-Battles, Healthy Eating System for the Whole Family (Fork and Spoon Field Guides)

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30 Responses to “Picky Eaters – Getting Kids to Eat Healthy”

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  1. Lin says:

    Tip Diva, thank you for giving me the heads up on that article in the NY Times. I’ve checked it out and felt it was “spot on”.

  2. My picky eater is my husband. I am vegetarian and he is a meat-eater. We both cook and fix what each of us wants to eat.

    Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker’s last blog post..With Love, Man Is God— Sathya Sai Baba

  3. Charlotte says:


    I used to cater to my son, who is now 22 months old, because I thought I was doing the right thing. He is very strong-willed and will cry endlessly, but I realized one day that with all the work that I put into the kitchen of making healthy and delicious food, and with all the obese children out there, who are at risk of serious health problems, I would put an end to this nonsense of being afraid of my own child. It doesn’t mean that if he hates a food, I’m going to be cruel and keep forcing him to eat it. It means that I’m going to cook healthy, delicious meals, and clean when we are done eating. I’m not going to go and prepare another meal just because someone doesn’t appreciate the work that was put in it. I, too, get cravings for cheeseburgers and french fries, but I can’t afford to eat them money-wise or weight-wise, and if I’m not willing to replace my craving for a nice salad, lean protein and some whole grains, I must not be all that hungry after all. I also want to mention something. Some parents seem down on the concept of hiding veggies and whole grains in traditional dishes that kids love. If you did just this alone, perhaps it wouldn’t be teaching your children the long-term habit of eating healthy foods. The goal, to me, is to boost the nutrition of EVERYTHING we eat, and yet still offer whole grains and veggies alongside of it. You can boost the nutrition of meat by dipping it in a little cauliflower puree and before putting on the batter, and you can add flax seeds and quinoa into the batter. That doesn’t mean that you can’t serve some quinoa as well, it just means that no matter what, we are getting our nutrition. So in other words, I think that parents should think kid friendly, but at the same time, once dinner is served, dinner is served, and don’t feel like you have to cook two different things for two different people, unless of course, there are medical conditions or allergies involved.

  4. Lin says:

    Hello Charlotte, your suggestions are wonderful, thank you for adding to the conversation. You make an interesting and valid point about parents often being afraid of their child’s whining and crying about what is being served, often times giving in to demands from their child rather than standing strong. Good for you in wanting to instill healthy eating habits in your children, and doing everything you possibly can to ensure their health and well being and helping to avoid obesity in children.

  5. My daughter is picky, she has lived on Rice Krispies for breakfast the past 2 years. I just have had to let her eat lots of what she likes, I don’t make food an issue in our house, and a good multivitamin (tho it may not do a whit of good anyways)


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