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How to Successfully Surprise (and Cure!) Your Picky Eater

Off The Wall Ideas To Cure Picky Eaters

In this Internet age, there are a lot of myths proliferated widely…are “picky eaters” one of them? Could there be ways to cure your child’s “picky” food preferences – even if they’re not really picky eaters?!

Kresha Faber of Nourishing Joy and I sat down to discuss that topic recently, and I loved her tips!

I firmly believe that most kids who are “picky eaters” really aren’t – they just have gotten in the habit of being able to say no to things they don’t love and eat only what they do. But what to do if your family is already down that path??!

Start small.

Just try something.

And then get intentional – which is what Kresha and I will share in the video (and short notes).

My example of starting small is the Christmas party I planned for my daughter’s third grade class.

I served only water, fruits and veggies (and popcorn) and was a huge cheerleader encouraging everyone to try something they had never tried before. Almost every child tried a new food, most of them ended up liking something (or at least tolerating it), and hey – nobody cried. Winking smile

You can hear the whole story plus what I said to the mom who brought the cupcakes (not on the list!) at about the 7-minute mark (or –28:00 on the right hand side of the video) right here – I hope you don’t think it was mean!

You might be able to tell that personally, I think most picky eaters just have bad habits, are probably very stubborn, and are very fixable! It takes some work on the parents’ part, but it’s well worth it. That’s one of the many reasons I choose to teach my kids to cook!

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Curing Picky Eaters – Uncommon Solutions

Now here’s Kresha, with no contraband cupcakes whatsoever, with an excellent interview. You can watch it here, listen to the mp3 while you’re out or read the summary:

If you can’t see the video here, click picky eater solutions to view it right on YouTube.

Grab the Audio:

Click here to download the mp3 version of the interview (to take with you) or just listen to it now without taking the resources on your device for video.

Picky Eaters Interview Summary

I’m a busy mom too, and I’m not usually one for watching a video. I’d rather skim! Here’s some skimmable notes from the video, with timestamps so you can skip ahead and just listen to what interests you the most.

1. Let’s start with your story – why do you bother with real food for your family?

Start at 00:42 for Kresha’s crazy story of losing power and the ability to travel all at once and worrying that she couldn’t feed her tiny baby! A minor crisis that got them thinking, and changing their lives:

“My husband and I grew up in families with self-sufficiency and sustainability at the center, and we wanted to make it a priority to feed our family real food that was healthy. As life unfolded, we wanted to be intentional about what we were feeding our family and what systems we were feeding into in the process.”

2. And how about picky eating? What draws you to tackle this as a passion?

Check out this topic at 4:22 – Because it causes stress and I’m all about reducing stress points. I hear it talked about so much, especially parents who want to transition to real foods. It’s a common stress point across families and we need to address it as family and a society. Let’s free ourselves from those stress points!

3. A lot of parents say they have picky eaters. Sometimes I disagree with their assessments, ahem. 🙂 So…let’s define it. What do you see as “what is a picky eater?” just so we’re all on the same page.

Kresha’s definition starts at 5:45. An important reminder though – “For the first five years it’s normal for kids to go through favorite food phases.”

“Picky eaters are defined as those reticent to try anything new. That said, being a picky eater doesn’t always have to do with food.”

Hmmmm…really? Nothing to do with food?

Beets and kale at the farmers market

4. Do you think there are a variety of reasons a child might be a picky eater? What are some “causes” you come across?

In general, Kresha shared that picky eating often has to do with life, and food is simply a place where children can have control. They have big emotions and big thoughts to deal with, complex relationships that they are negotiating.

As a way to simplify the world as they can understand, it often comes down to food and our children’s relationship with food.

It isn’t about the food itself, but the lives we live outside of our food, the external. Try 6:51 for more great perspectives on this!

RELATED: Reversing & Preventing Picky Eating

5. And how about the “cure?” What are some strategies parents can use?

When we choose to change the situation, it can change the mind.

  • eat by candlelight
  • eat dinner under the table one night
  • picnic in the living room
  • use toothpicks or skewers to eat
  • You can re-introduce those “picky” foods where the situation is different!
“If the child is anxious, sharing a family meal is the way for the child to feel more secure and children can feel valued as the fabric of the family.”

Kresha’s picky eater story is at 9:42. Check all the fun ideas at timestamp 11:00 and one of my brainstorms about crunchy things at 23:36 (obviously we came back to the topic!).

Pin this to spread the news!

Off The Wall Ideas To Cure Picky Eaters

More ideas and reminders on how difficult it is to try new things…

Make your child feel valued. Knowing your child and valuing them for that helps them develop a life skill.

How do you do something you don’t like to do? If we can infuse that experience with creativity, patience, and joy, then we can help them learn that life skill of conquering something new while being patient with them as they learn this. Our challenge as parents is tailoring this to them.

Get inspired at 19:33 in the video!

Consider textures…

Fresh Strawberries

For instance, if your child does not like soft food, it’s a sensory thing. Maybe plan a meal around a color, like the color red, or all crunchy foods. They can feel triumphant for eating everything on their plate because they were part of the decision process. They can also feel confident moving forward in the world.

More at 21:08 in the video.

And of course please check out our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse for a proven roadmap to teach kids to cook at all ages and skill levels. We’d love to have you join us!

6. Do you have rules for the dinner table?

In our family we have 2 rules:

  • You have to take a bite of everything when it is presented.
  • If you serve it, you eat it. If someone else serves it, you can have more say in how much you eat.

More on “the bite”: Afterwards, they can choose whether they like it or not. The children are then empowered to make the decision whether to like the food or not like the food. I want them to be mindful of what is given to us and what we take in terms of food. It’s about being mindful.

More on “served”: If food is served to the children, we can negotiate how many bites to take, but if you served it to yourself, you must eat all of the food. (Good stewardship!!) There is a place they are allowed to choose and a place they are not allowed to choose and having control has lessened the battle between parents feeding children healthy food.

Children are left with the lesson there are family rules, but I was able to pick and choose what food I wanted and I had to follow through with my food decision.

Learn about Kresha’s Nourishing Joy rules at 13:00 in the video.

“We can give kids a skill that helps them delight in their food, family relationships, life in general. If we can change the chaos that can come with a meal, we can enjoy that time together as a family.”

We Get It – It’s Not Easy

This is all very intentional on our part as parents. It takes a lot of creativity and energy!

We may have the best of intentions, but by the end of the day, we are exhausted, so this takes thinking ahead on our part. We have to remember not to burn ourselves out as we help our children.

We talk about how hard it can be – reality check! – at the 25-minute mark, and here’s a post from Kresha on getting your spouse on board with big ideas.

And it’s also not always straightforward – the cause of picky eating could be allergies, Sensory Processing Disorder, or other issues that take more than *just* creativity to conquer. Mary Voogt’s story of discovering and healing her children’s food allergies is absolutely awe-inspiring, and I’d recommend her to anyone who feels completely overwhelmed with “picky eaters” that might have something more going on. Her book Why Won’t my Child Eat? about bringing her daughter practically back from death will give you chills and solutions.(Here’s the beginning of the story…)

7. Picky eaters or not, real food can already be exhausting. Do you have some tips for the busy mama to help get healthy food on the table, regardless of who’s sitting there waiting…patiently (or not)?

I call them the 3 Ps.

  1. Planning
  2. Prep
  3. Pantry
Off the Wall Ideas to Cure Picky Eaters

Meal Planning

Planning is meal planning. Planning meals ahead makes a massive difference psychologically. I did not have to spend the mental energy and I could still make a meal by mood, if it stuck me. (More great tips at 27:01.)

Kresha knows what she’s talking about as the author of The Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion (Link no longer available), meal plans for real people. 

Do Some Prep

Prepping is looking ahead at any recipe and saying what can I do in advance? Can I chop the onions or put together a spice mix? (Listen in at 27:50.)

Stock your Pantry the Right Way

Keep on hand the snacks and ingredients you need. Just have on hand what you are happy people in your family are snacking on and cooking with in your home. Get rid of temptations! These are my long term table strategies. (found at 29:03 in the video)

Have you dealt with picky eaters at your table? What are your best strategies to get kids to try new things and release the bad habits?

Note: We know that sometimes picky eating means there’s more going on and a real disorder that needs to be addressed, but that’s not who we’re talking about here. If you wonder whether your child has Sensory Processing Disorder or another issue that might make these tips obsolete for you, please read this incredible guest post on picky eaters with deeper problems.

Need more tips? Find out how to use all EIGHT senses to help picky eaters and Eating Styles.


Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

3 thoughts on “How to Successfully Surprise (and Cure!) Your Picky Eater”

  1. I have spent many years working with people who have eating problems. While some children (and adults) use picky eating as a power play, it can truly be another issue. The #1 texture people cannot tolerate is peas. If you child says (of any food) “I can chew it but I can’t swallow it” pay attention. If you push they may well gag and/or throw up. My son threw up when he ate cooked carrots. He had no trouble with raw carrots, so that’s what he got when I served cooked carrots. For him, it really was textures.
    I can’t eat foods with strong smells, like cooked cabbage, turnips, etc. I can eat them raw in salads, because they don’t stink.
    My friend is a vegetarian because she can’t stand the texture of meats.
    If you think the problem is behavioral, try starting by telling your child to “kiss” the food. Right after they touch it to their lips they will lick their lips & taste it. Then graduate to one pea, two peas, one bite, two bites, etc.
    I always made sure there was one food my child would eat at every meal, but he had to kiss or taste everything because tastes change. When he was 5 I told him he would have to eat what I made or make his own food. Cooking with me didn’t work. He’d cook with me but still refused to eat. He just got his degree in culinary arts.

  2. I have a picky eater, but it’s my elderly mom! If it doesn’t LOOK like something she’ll like she throws a fit (it’s getting worse). I keep telling her that she’s eaten x before and liked it. She drives me crazy! I have stopped trying to please her and just make real food and she eats it or doesn’t. She won’t help me meal plan or prep, so she doesn’t get a vote!

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