15 Moms' Clever Tricks (That Work!) to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Well

15 Moms' Clever Tricks (That Work!) to Get Picky Eaters to Eat Well
Image: istock.com/Geber86

family eating

Tonight for dinner my picky daughter ate crackers, canned mandarin oranges, and a cereal bar. I counted this as a successful dinner because at least it involved fruit. Vegetables? That's still the impossible dream. 

I've dealt with a picky kid before, but my son's picky phase was much shorter and less intense. I feel like my usual tricks for getting her to have some more variety in her diet aren't working and it's actually getting to be a problem. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say that my kid definitely needs some more fiber in her diet.

As always, when I need parenting advice, I turn to other moms who've lived through it. Thankfully, 15 smart and strategic moms were willing to share their easy, and sometimes sneaky, ways to get their kids to consume healthy foods. They swear that these work.

I'm not gonna lie -- I'm totally trying #1 and #9 this week!

  • Healthy Competition

    mom and baby eating cucumber
    iStock.com/Weekend Images Inc.

    "My son is super competitive. I've figured out that I can use this to my advantage by pointing out that his baby sister will try new food but he won't. So now anything she tries, he'll try because he doesn't want her to 'beat him.' They both had cucumber yesterday. Total mom win." -- Shanice F., Los Gatos, California

  • Hidden Treasure

    little girl eating yogurt
    iStock.com/Weekend Images Inc.

    "Honestly, I just hide stuff in her beloved yogurt cups. I've added in raisins and even some pureed dates and apples. Getting in fruit has been a challenge, but she doesn't seem to notice if it's in yogurt." -- Amanda B., Des Moines, Iowa

  • Reverse Psychology

    child eating veggies

    "My daughter is still young enough that she falls for reverse psychology. I usually tell her, 'Oh, I bet you can't eat all that broccoli. Only a really big kid can eat that much broccoli and you're still SO LITTLE.'

    "She falls for it about 67 percent of the time." -- Lauren W., Madison, Wisconsin

    More from CafeMom: 14 Easy, Nut-Free Lunches to Pack for a Picky Eater

  • Super Smoothie

    green smoothie

    "My veggie-averse son drinks a green smoothie every day. He knows that it has spinach and carrots in it. He just doesn't care because I told him that it was what superheroes eat to get strong muscles. I'm just happy to have him eating some fresh veggies every day. When our blender broke, I went out that day to get a new one. I'm not playing when it comes to smoothies." -- Madison Q., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Princess Power

    little girl playing princess

    "We've convinced our princess-obsessed daughter that real princesses always eat any food that starts with the letter 'p.' This includes peas, parsnips, pepperoni, and provolone cheese -- all things she refused to try before." -- Amalie H., Saint Paul, Minnesota 

  • Believe the Hype

    chopstick holding sushi rolls

    "This sounds terrible, but one of my top 10 parenting goals was to get kids who eat sushi. I love sushi. It is FOR SURE my favorite food to go out to eat. So of course I got twins who are so picky. 

    "I hatched a plan with my husband that we would totally hype up sushi as this thing that only big kids got to have. We'd make a big deal of getting some and then telling them, before they even said anything, that they couldn't have any because it was special and just for us.

    "Eventually one of them said, 'I really, really want to try it. Please!' -- so we went out for sushi and I got them some really mild choices. I wasn't sure if they'd actually try it, but they did! Now they have a few things they'll reliably get when we go out. I'm super happy." -- Eve P., Redmond, Washington

  • Me First

    mom and daughter breakfast

    "I've learned that any new foods and things outside of her comfort zone, I put it on my plate first. She's much more interested in what is on my plate than on hers." -- Josie R., Houston, Texas

    More from CafeMom: 10 Cute, Yummy Breakfast Ideas for Picky Eaters

  • Dip It Up

    veggie dip

    "Thank God for the invention of ranch dressing! My picky eater will try almost anything in the vegetable family if I give him ranch dressing to dip it in. I make a huge homemade batch every week and stay stocked up on carrots, celery, and other dippable choices. Someday he'll eat cooked vegetables, I hope, but raw works for now. All hail ranch!" -- Tori F., Saint Paul, Minnesota 

  • Ice Pop Puree

    little boy with popsicle

    "I make homemade 'ice cream' pops that are really made out of bananas and can have pureed carrots or even sweet potatoes mixed in. My kid loves them and is none the wiser." -- Britt F., St. Petersburg, Florida

  • Trail Mix Rules

    trail mix

    "My biggest food issue with my son is that he hates meat, milk, and cheese, so I worry about him getting protein in his diet. I started making homemade trail mix with peanuts, cashews, almonds, raisins, and then some candy or chocolate chips. He knows that if he asks for trail mix, he has to eat all of it and not just pick out the sweets or raisins. Lately he's been requesting a bowl every morning for snack, so I think it's working!" -- Jodie S., White Bear Lake, Minnesota 

  • TV Trick

    kids eating in front of the screen
    iStock.com/Maartje van Caspel

    "This is a 'keeping it real' trick -- my kids are less picky about what they eat when they are zoned out on TV or their tablets. On nights when I don't want to fight the battle about there being onions in the spaghetti sauce, I let them watch TV while they eat it. Judge away, but it works!" -- Stacey V., Abilene, Texas

  • Soup Sneak

    girl eating soup

    "My picky daughter loves soup, weirdly enough. Turns out, there are a lot of things you can hide in soup, as long as you puree it first. This works especially well in her school lunch. She drinks the soup out of a thermos so she also isn't inspecting every spoonful for a mystery vegetable." -- Carmen D., Flagstaff, Arizona

  • Dad's Helpers

    family eating around the table

    "When we're trying something new, sometimes my husband pretends to be a picky eater and that he won't try it. Then I'll ask the kids to help talk him into it. Usually they end up selling him on how good it smells or they try a tiny bite to show it isn't gross. Once they try it, he'll make a big deal out of being willing to try it too. I'm guessing they'll smarten up about this ruse eventually but it works now!" -- Wanda O., Jackson, Mississippi

  • The Power of Advertising

    little boys watching TV

    "Here is my confession: My kids will try almost anything if it has some character on it that they know. So this week they'll have soup with Elsa on it and carrot sticks with Mickey Mouse on the package. The scary power of advertising at work, but at least it means they're having carrots, right?" -- Karen V., Tucson, Arizona

  • Graze Away

    kids hands reaching for plate of fruit

    "My kids are in that annoying phase of both being picky and not having an attention span to actually sit down at the table to have a reasonable meal. Lately, I've been trying to go with the flow about this and just setting out a plate of healthy things for them to graze on all day. Usually it's fruit, nuts, some whole grain crackers, and some cut veggies. Most days, the plate is empty by the end of the day. I don't know exactly who eats what, but someone is getting some vitamins in the house, so that makes me feel like I'm doing my mom duty." -- Jessica M., Saint Paul, Minnesota

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