10 Things To Remember When Trying To Get Your Picky Kids To Eat Real Food Meals

10 Things To Remember When Trying To Get Your Picky Kids To Eat Real Food Meals | Growing Up Herbal | 10 tips for dealing with picky kids over eating healthy foods!

What happens when your kid starts to develop a taste for foods… when they start to prefer certain things over others… when they begin to refuse to eat what you make for dinner… when in reality, they become picky eaters?

As mom, you know they need to eat, and you know they need to eat healthy, real foods. You know the food you’re making doesn’t taste bad. You eat it. Dad eats it. Some of the children eat it.

So what do you do with the kids that seem to hate everything you put in front of them unless it’s processed?

The answers to these questions come in all different forms, but today I’m going to share 10 things to keep in mind when trying to get picky kids to eat the healthy meals you make them. I personally use these tips with my kids when I’m trying to get them on board with eating healthy, real food meals.

10 Tips To Get Your Picky Kids To Eat Healthy Foods

#1 – Who’s In Charge

Basically, this boils down to me letting my kids know that I am mom, and if they’re hungry, they can eat what they’re given. That’s number one. Someone has to be the boss, and in our house, it’s me and dad.

Our kids know that we love and respect them. We give them choices about things at time, and we enjoy them. But, they know that we’re in charge and there are some things that are non-negotiable.

#2 – Show Them Examples Of Good & Bad Health

I talk about being healthy a lot with my kids. We talk about healthy foods, about how sickness effects us in ways we don’t like, and about people that we know that are healthy or unhealthy. I also talk about how eating good foods makes them strong and healthy like daddy since they’re boys and they want to be like him as they grow up. All this is so they can visualize what good health looks like and to make it appealing to them.

#3 – Make It Taste Good

I do my best to chose foods/meals that I think my kids will like. I mean, no one wants to eat something that tastes nasty. But, no matter how I try, there are times where we need to try something new or there’s something about it they won’t like so much. So some things I do when I’m making something that I think they’ll not immediately like so much taste better is to use herbs and spices, homemade broth, butter ,and sea salt. Usually, once they try it, they see that it really does taste good… even if it doesn’t look good, and they’ll eat it.

A good example of this is kale chips. My kids took one look at them and refused to eat them, but once they saw mama and little bro enjoying them (and of course I made a BIG deal about them being so good) they decided to give it a try. Boy, were they glad they did!

#4 – Finishing Their Plate vs. Making An Effort

My kids don’t have to eat their food all gone, but they do have to make an effort.

I was never made to clean my plate as a child, and I’ve never really struggled with overeating as an adult. My husband, on the other hand, was taught to clean his plate, and still, to this day, he will keep eating until his food is gone even if he’s already full.

To me, that’s a bad habit that I don’t want to pass on to our kids. Thankfully my husband agrees with how we’re doing things.

#5 – Get Them Involved

As often as I’ve worked with my kids to get them over being picky eaters (and trust me, this comes and goes in stages like a lot of childhood things do), the more I’ve seen that having them help me in the kitchen is a good strategy. When they help mama make dinner, they feel like it’s their food, and they want to eat it.

Plus, when little brother complains about the food, it helps them understand how I feel when they do it to me. There’s nothing like first-hand experience to cause a lightbulb to go off in their head!

10 Things To Remember When Trying To Get Your Picky Kids To Eat Real Food Meals | Growing Up Herbal | 10 tips for dealing with picky kids over eating healthy foods!

#6 – Be Flexible

Flexibility is a must. Like I said before, I do try to find recipes my kids like. If they don’t like one version of a meal I try to find a similar one or adjust it in some way to suit them better next time around. I also don’t toss a recipe the first time I make it if they don’t like it. I try it out a few times just to be sure. If it never gets any better and they never develop a taste for it, then I’ll get rid of it.

#7 – Limit Snacks

This was a huge breakthrough for us. For the longest time I would let my kids have a snack whenever they asked because I felt like their bodies knew when they were hungry and needed food, but I eventually realized what was happening was that they were filling up on snacks and therefore they weren’t hungry at meal times.

So now, I don’t give my kids endless snacks throughout the day. We have a scheduled snack time between lunch and dinner since that’s our longest span between meals during the day, and if they’re hungry, they wait until then. This has also taught them to eat a good amount of their food when they do get it because they know they won’t be getting more until the next meal.

Now I will say here that these time spans vary based on my children’s ages. My littler ones eat more frequently than the older ones. And, this will also vary if you have a child with a medical condition like hypoglycemia or something similar where they need to eat more frequently, but still, you can create a schedule for them. Kids thrive on routine because they aren’t caught off guard and they know what to expect.

#8 – Be A Good Example

“Monkey see, monkey do” goes for healthy foods as well as junk foods. If my kids saw me enjoying junk, but I said they couldn’t have it, that wouldn’t make much sense to them, and it would create a rebellious spirit in them. That’s not what I want. I eat the exact same foods my kids eat… snacks and all.

#9 – Give Them Responsibility

This is similar to #5, except here I’m talking about more responsibility than helping with meals alone.

Not only do my kids help me cook meals, but they help me pick out our foods when we go to the grocery store, I give them choices when I’m planning our meals for the week, they help dad and I work in the garden and grow healthy food, and we talk about being good stewards of our bodies and how being healthy is part of that. I’m teaching them to be responsible and little by little, I see and hear them say things about wanting to be healthy.

#10 – Attitude Training

Now, this was and is a big one for us. I can’t tell you how often I hear (or see) my kids bad attitudes when I cook something they don’t love. It can be a yucky face, it can be them saying that the food “isn’t my favorite”, or it can be pure silence and a lack of enthusiasm. No matter, bad attitudes stink, and I like my house to smell good so this is something we’re constantly working on. Besides, no one likes a whiny kid or a disrespectful older child, teenager, or adult. So working to correct these behaviors while they’re small is key for us. This doesn’t only apply to food or to mom and dad either… it spills over into many different areas of life and affects more people than just their family.

So, if they’re whining or having bad attitudes over eating, then we work on attitude training with them. We first start with immediately correcting them when they have the bad attitude. We always explain it as if they had stood in the kitchen for an hour making dinner and had mama or daddy say their food was yucky. We explain how that is selfish and not being thoughtful of the person doing something kind for them. Then we all sit down to eat and enjoy our food while that hopefully soaks in.

If they still don’t make a good effort at eating their food and the bad attitude is still there, they may have to stay sitting at the table after the rest of us are finished while we do something fun because we ate our food. Sometimes they don’t get dessert because they didn’t eat. And sometimes we may give them their unfinished food again at the next meal with no snacks until then. It just depends. No matter, bad attitudes are viewed as negative in our home, and the only thing that comes from them is a negative consequence.

10 Tips To Get Picky Kids To Eat Real Food Meals | GrowingUpHerbal.com | 10 tips for dealing with picky kids over eating healthy foods!

So there you go… those are my 10 tips to working at getting your kids into eating real foods with less pickiness.

Again, these won’t work for all families or kids. Pick and choose and try different things. Get creative, get your kids involved, and have fun. But above all, make sure that they know that mom and dad are running the show and there’s only room for one cook in the kitchen… and that’s you, mama!

Graphic Photo Credit: Lisa C. Shen (d.delight) via Compfight cc

Do you have a tip to share when it comes to getting your kids to eat better and to be less picky? I’m all for new ideas! Share with me in the comments below!
  1. Whitney says:

    I love how you said, “bad attitudes stink, and I like my house to smell good…”! Great line. I was always told, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”
    Kids love structure and discipline, believe it or not, and if given the chance they will thrive on it!
    Great ideas here. 🙂

    • Meagan says:

      I agree. I can definitely see my kids having worse behavior and attitudes when I let them get their way more often or if our routine starts to slip. They just aren’t capable of making independent, wise decisions at this age which is why we have a structure and training in our home… so that one day, they will be able to make those good decisions on their own. “Fits” are not okay here either. I don’t like not getting my way either, but hey, that’s life and if I want life to go as smoothly as possible, I have to learn to take the good with the bad and to compromise. My kids will learn that too! Thanks for your comment Whitney!

  2. Sarah D. says:

    Good tips. We’ve been “discovering” a lot of these. #4 has been one that we have found helpful. Both of us grew up cleaning our plates, neither of us have or have had weight problems, so letting go of the “clean plate” thing has been hard for us but seems to be working with the children. If we don’t force them to clean their plates on something they don’t really want, they seem to be more receptive to the dish when we have it again. Children go through growth spurts, so they may want the food one time we have it, and gobble it up, but don’t actually need it when we have it again, and just pick at it. Yes, it’s frustrating, but we’re learning. Never knew parenting was a learning experience; I just thought being a child was about learning! =)

    • Meagan says:

      Oh I love it! I love that you said “I never knew parenting was a learning experience; I just thought being a child was about learning!” That’s so true!! I’m learning so much with my boys, and thankfully they’re learning too. We’re trying to keep it all fun.

      I too have noticed my kids like foods one time then don’t like them again. Sometimes it can be their mood causing that, and I suppose sometimes it can be something else. I’m not sure. My kids always ask if they’ve had the meal before and if they liked it. If I say yes, they’re more open to eating it. If I say no, they tend to be more picky about it. So that means, when we have new meals, I’ll tell this it’s new, but I’ll also tell them about the ingredients in it that they love and give examples of other meals they like that include those ingredients. It all helps.

      I know a lot of parents push the clean your plate thing… which is fine. I’m in no place to judge. I’ve just not seen that be too effective with my kids so we don’t do it. I do however think that when they get older and they’re filling their own plates, we will have some teaching to do in that area as many of us can put too much food on our plates thinking we’re gonna eat it and then not. I don’t want them to be wasteful… I’d rather them go back for seconds if needed.

      • Sarah D. says:

        I like that: “My kids always ask if they’ve had the meal before and if they liked it.” My children do the same thing! I’ll tell them what the meal is and just say, “You’ll just have to eat it to find out if you like it.” They’ll want to know what’s in food, too, so I’ll tell them what’s in it that I know they like. =)

        I try to not give them too much of anything, so I know cleaning their plate isn’t going to be a lot of food. You’re right, the older they get, they will need to learn to not put too much on their plates. There’s nothing wrong with going back for seconds (which they ask for sometimes, if they really like the little bit I gave them). Sometimes, if I can see that they are really struggling with a food, I’ll have them eat just one or two bites. It seems the next time we have that food, they’re more receptive to it.

        It seems each of my boys (ages 5 1/2yo and 4yo) went through a “picky stage” from about 2yo to 4yo. My almost 2yo daughter has shown a couple “picky” signs, but nothing like the boys. Her “picky” foods seem to be meats and she’ll eat all the vegetables and fruits I give her! The boys were picky when it came to vegetables (the 4yo, whose birthday was a few days ago, is getting better with the vegetables). All children seem to have some kind of “texture” issues and one time or another.

        Parenthood is a trip! =)

        • Meagan says:

          Agreed! Textures can throw them off. My kids don’t like kale in their soups, but they’ll eat kale chips. Go figure. Oh well! As long as more good goes in than junk and we can get additional nutrients through herbs and superfoods, I’m a happy mama! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Aye says:

    Excellent Excellent tips. I am struggling with my picky eating 20 month of at the moment. It’s so frustrating but I have to remember not to give in. Your tips are so helpful and I am going to try them all. I really hope this phase ends soon.

  4. Liv says:

    This came at the perfect time for me! Right before I read this I was musing about why my 4 year old suddenly won’t eat her fruit and veggies anymore which is so unlike her! Hopefully just a phase, but I still load her plate up with a rainbow array of different things , and offer something she loves to eat with them, say, apples and strawberries with raw honey to dip, or hummus to dip her raw veggies in… She may only eat the hummus (lol) but that’s not the worst thing in the world to eat by itself 😉 win some, lose some haha!

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for your comment! Definitely check out the March book club book… I think you’ll LOVE it! I know I have.

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