11 Smart Ways Moms Got Their Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

Wendy Robinson | Feb 1, 2016 Big Kid

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Confession time: I was once a smug food mommy. When my first child started eating solids, I was delighted at how totally not picky he was. Avocados! Spinach pasta! Every vegetable or taste combination I threw at him, he gobbled down. I was so proud. And then age 3 happened.

My son is 7 now and still has a more limited palate than he did as a toddler. While he loves all fruit, vegetables are still a work in progress -- as are casseroles, salads, soups, or any other food where mixing and touching of ingredients happens.

I'm always on the hunt for new ideas to help him broaden his culinary horizons, so I'm totally going to be bookmarking this slideshow for future inspiration.

Here, 11 moms shared their smart strategies for getting their picky eaters to try new foods. #3 is genius!


Image via iStock.com/PeopleImages

  • Turn Grocery Shopping into a Game


    iStock.com/ Viktar

    "My daughter loves rainbows, so I printed a picture of a rainbow and took it with us when we went grocery shopping. Her job was to find food for every color. It got her excited to be in the produce section, and when we made fruit salad from her choices, she actually ate it!" -- Maylee B., Amarillo, Texas

  • Serve It Family Style


    iStock.com/ mediaphotos

    "The biggest thing I do is not make a battle out of meals. We eat together every night. I don't short order cook for anyone, so everyone has the same dinner in front of them. I let the kids serve themselves and if they leave the table hungry, that is their choice. Sometimes they are braver about trying new things when they think I'm not paying attention. So I don't pay attention." -- Laurie W., Polk City, Iowa

  • Make the Meal Into a Story


    iStock.com/ Azurita

    "I encourage my kids to play with their food! Seriously. I try to make all the meals visually appealing but I also discovered that my worst picky eater loves it when I make the meal a story. So, like when we have broccoli, mashed potatoes, and kielbasa, I put the broccoli on top of the mashed potatoes. And I call it the bad guy fort. The kielbasa are the bad guys. He has to destroy them and their fort by eating it. Ketchup is available for making blood. It's messy but it works." -- Maya R., Kansas City, Missouri

  • Grow Your Own



    "My picky eater won't try anything new -- unless it comes from our garden. She doesn't like everything we've grown, but she actually took bites out of tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. Like magic!" -- Grace T., Dorr, Michigan

  • Keep Serving New Things (and Love It!)


    iStock.com/ STUDIO GRAND OUEST

    "I try to make sure I am modeling good habits, so I don't act like a salad is a punishment or that the meat is the good stuff and the veggies are the healthy stuff. Having picky kids has actually helped make me a little more open-minded about what we eat. I buy more new things so we can all try to find more we like." -- Tessa B., Romeoville, Illinois

    More from CafeMom: Simple Salads: Which is Your Favorite?

  • Play Dress-Up


    iStock.com/ petrograd99

    "I think it's totally true that kids are more likely to eat what they helped make. And never underestimate the power of accessories. My dress-up-loving kid digs having her own chef hat and apron. I remind her that chefs have to try new things, and that works more than you'd expect." -- Annie E., Patagonia, Arizona

    More from CafeMom: 6 Kid-Friendly Dinners for Under $5

  • Serve It With Dip


    iStock.com/ Elenathewise

    "I've figured out that my picky kid will try almost anything if dip is involved. Baked chicken = barbecue sauce. Fresh veggies = ranch. Pretzels = peanut butter. Would I rather the kid just ate carrot sticks without ranch? Sure, I guess. But I'd rather they eat it with ranch than not at all." -- Erin S., Chicago, Illinois

  • Make Build-Your-Own Meals


    iStock.com/ HughStoneIan

    "My son thinks salad is the grossest thing ever. But when I make tacos and let him assemble his own, he'll happily add lettuce and tomatoes to it. I don't question it or point out that he is basically having a salad. I find that a lot of instances where he can assemble his own meal are like that." -- Gloria B., Tampa, Florida

  • Make Smoothies


    iStock.com/ red_pepper82

    "I use smoothies as a way to get in green veggies. My kids love smoothies, and I never try to hide that there are veggies in there. I figure someday they'll make the leap from spinach in their smoothie to spinach on their plate. Until then, they can drink their greens." -- Kelli L, Stillwater, Minnesota

  • Get Them Involved in the Meal Plan


    iStock.com/ alexskopje

    "I make my picky eater help meal plan at the start of the week. That way he gets a chance to suggest meal ideas but also knows that we aren't going to have nuggets five times this week." -- Claire R., Abilene, Texas

  • Put It into Perspective


    iStock.com/ KatarzynaBialasiewicz

    "Two things have helped me with my ultra picky eater. The first is learning to not let his picky eating make me crazy. My job is to provide him food; his job is to eat it. End of story. If he opts not to eat something, I work hard not to take it personally.

    "Second, I make sure that I think about food over the course of a week, not meal to meal. I get stressed out because he won't eat an apple for a snack but then I remind myself that yesterday he did eat blueberries, so I can keep my perspective and not worry that he's getting scurvy." -- Olivia W., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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