Here Are 9 Good Ways to Help Picky Eaters Get Their Vegetables

Dealing with picky eaters can be miserable for both kids and their parents. Sometimes children just hate the taste or texture of certain foods and absolutely refuse to eat them. Some kids don't want to try anything new. Then again, for some children, it might just feel like eating or not eating food is one thing they can control in their ever-changing little lives. Whatever the reason, here are some tips to help your picky eater.


Don't Start a Food Fight

Mom and daughter fighting over food.

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It's stressful and exhausting, and you're frustrated. You've just whipped up a nice healthy snack, and you hope that, please, just this once, your kid will eat it with a smile, all the while beaming with thankfulness for your effort.

But that doesn't ever seem to happen, does it? And you feel that familiar anger building up inside and the next thing you know you're shouting at your kid. And she's screaming, crying, and yelling back at you.

The easy thing to do is give in and let your little one eat whatever she wants. But, that can't be right, can it?

Maybe, within limits, it's the best thing to do. If you think this whole healthy eating and trying new foods thing is worth a fight, maybe your child is learning that his boxed mac and cheese for dinner is worth defending. So the battle begins, and nobody wins.

Don't get into a fight with your picky eater. Take a deep breath, hand over the mac and cheese (for now), and try another method of teaching your kids to eat better.


Be a Role Model

Mom and son eating together

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Our kids listen to what we say, and they watch what we're doing, including how and what to eat.

So, if you want your little guy to eat his peas and carrots, that means you better eat them too. Take a look at your diet and how you eat. Are you eating lots of fruits and veggies and high fiber foods every day? Do you choose the grilled chicken instead of the fried chicken when you dine out as a family? Do you complain about your weight in front of your kids, then grab the closest candy bar?

Make healthier choices and be a role model for your kids.


Try Tiny Tastes

Girl Eating Red Pepper

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One way to get your picky eater to be a bit more adventuresome is to offer a little reward for taking such a culinary risk. Make a game of it, or check out Tiny Tastes.

Tiny Tastes is a tasting game in which kids try teeny tiny bites of foods they don't normally like and they get stickers whenever they eat the foods. The key is to offer one new little bit of unfamiliar food over and over again until your child gets used to it. Then, after a number of nibbles, she'll actually start to like it.

The Tiny Tastes pack comes with instructions, a chart, and stickers. They have research to show it works, too.

Be patient. It takes at least 10 tries, on average, before a child likes a new food.


Start With Starchy Veggies

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Any diet will be improved by adding more veggies. Both kids and grown-ups need more because they're high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and typically lower in calories. 

Of course, most picky eaters hate vegetables, so how do you get them to eat more?

Try starting with starchier and sweeter vegetables that are a little easier on young taste buds. Potatoes, corn, carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes are all good candidates. You can try something like the Tiny Tastes method, or you can offer just a small serving of the new vegetable along with the regular meal. With enough mealtime exposure, most kids will start to eat the unknown food.

Kids will often accept these veggies quickly, and then learning to eat healthy becomes a positive experience. That way the idea of trying some slightly bitter vegetables won't seem so scary.


Add Fruits or Veggies to Accepted Dishes

Mac and cheese with zucchini.

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Adding new foods to current favorites might work for some picky eaters. There are a couple of ways to do it. One is to puree something like zucchini, cauliflower, or carrots and sneak them into mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, or whatever. The Sneaky Chef has this method down to an art. 

On one hand, sneaking veggies in is an excellent way to get healthy nutrients into your kid. But on the other hand, it may not help your child learn to try and accept new foods. All in all, though, it's not a bad idea, and it can be good for picky adults too.

The other way to add new foods to old favorites is to add them to a dish without hiding them, or just change the flavor and texture a bit. Think about adding zucchini or spinach to mac and cheese.

It's best not to surprise kids with new creations. Talk to them and get them to buy into the idea first. Let them pick out a new combination to try themselves.


Use Tasty Toppings and Dips

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Toppings, dressings, dips, and sauces can transform "yucky" vegetables into yummy snacks and meals. Serve broccoli with melted cheese or cheese sauce and top green beans with bacon. Make a salad with sweet dressings like French or Russian dressing, or use the dressings as a dip for raw veggies.

Peanut butter is a good topping for celery sticks or apple slices and plain raw carrots can be dipped in hummus.

Add a little caramel sauce to apple slices so it tastes more like a caramel apple. Serve strawberries and banana slices with a little drizzle of chocolate syrup or with yogurt or in a bowl with milk.

Over time, your picky eater will learn to enjoy foods without all the toppings. Just be patient.


Associate Food With Fun

Cute lunches make eating more fun.

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Some ways to make mealtime fun include cute plates and cups, artistic arrangements of foods, making up names for your favorite foods, or going out for a few outdoor picnics. You can also have your picky eater choose one food a week or a month that they want to try and make it into a fun challenge.


Find a Buddy

Brothers or friends who are eating carrots and celery

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Sometimes no matter how hard we try to explain something to our kids, they just refuse to listen. Maybe the message needs to come from being around someone else, like a trusted friend or older sibling. A friend or sibling who also happens not to be a picky eater.

Invite your picky eater's friends over at snack time. Trying new foods with a friend might help your child relax and realize the new food isn't horrible.


Get Your Kid Cooking

Girl in kitchen may learn to be less picky.

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Another good way to get your picky eater motivated to try new foods is to get her involved in the process. Kids love to eat what they help to make, and it's good to prepare family meals together.

Have your picky eater help choose the menu for the next family dinner or maybe go shopping with you. Or, better yet, get your picky eater into the kitchen to start cooking. Even little kids can help out by washing, sorting, or stirring, but be careful to keep them away from sharp knives and hot stovetops.

A Word From Verywell

Trying to help a picky eater can be frustrating but with these tips and a lot of patience, your picky eater will come around eventually. If you're still feeling frustrated, be sure to speak with your pediatrician or a dietitian who specializes in kids' health.

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