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Picky Eater? Try These Table Tips

Published on October 4, 2023

Young girl picking at her food
If your child likes a certain type of food, introduce them to foods of similar consistency.

Read Time: 2 Minutes

Three Things to Know

  • When choosing meals, involve your children by bringing them with you when you go grocery shopping and letting them help prepare meals and school lunches.
  • Introduce your children to foods with similar consistencies to their favorites.
  • Make mealtimes fun by incorporating themed dinner nights, which also can help your children know what to expect.

It’s dinnertime, and you’ve prepared a healthy meal for your child, but they refuse to eat it.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

“Mealtime can be difficult for kids, from the time they're toddlers to their teenage years,” said Andrea Crossley, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Phelps Health.

Variety is key when it comes to what we should eat, especially for children.

“Our bodies need carbohydrates, proteins, sodium and fats, but all in moderation,” Andrea said.

In order for children to get the various nutrients they need from different foods, Andrea offers four tips for parents of picky eaters.

Andrea Crossley, CPNP-PC, MSN
Andrea Crossley,

Tip #1: Involve Your Children. Bring your child along with you when you go grocery shopping and help them pick out foods they like.

“You don't have to introduce a new food to them at every single meal, but children like to have some routine,” she said. Make it a point to include a food they do enjoy, in at least one meal per day.

Also, include your child when preparing meals or packing lunches. “Kids are very creative, and they can use that creativity in the kitchen,” she said.

Tip #2: Find Similar Foods. If your child likes a certain type of food, introduce them to foods of similar consistency. For example, if they like carrots, have them try cauliflower or sweet potatoes.

“We're not replacing their favorite foods, but exploring like scientists do,” Andrea said.

Tip #3: Have Fun. You also can play make believe, where you can have your child feed their stuffed animal or doll in a comfortable environment. “Don’t do this at the kitchen table when you're trying to get them to eat, though,” she said.

“You could say, ‘Oh, look, your doll really likes green beans. Look at how well she's eating them,’” Andrea said.

Another tip is to ask your child questions about food, like where did the cauliflower grow up? How did it get to us? What do you think the cauliflower would say if it could talk?

Tip #4: Add a Theme to Dinner Nights. Try themed dinner nights, so children have expectations of what they will eat each night. Pasta night, taco night and salad night are some examples.

If they don't like salad night, you can remind them that taco night is tomorrow night, so they can look forward to that. Themed dinner nights can help with a child’s routine, too.

Hungry for More Advice?

Check out and for more resources to encourage your children to eat healthy. Also, read this blog for other tips.

Found in: Care Child Community Dietary Pediatrics