Modern Mom: How to end picky eating for good

Sarah Brooks

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Picky eating, toddlers and kids go hand in hand. As a mom, there's almost (almost) nothing more frustrating than a child who won't eat healthy home-cooked meals. Sorry, kid, but living off Goldfish crackers, hotdogs and cookies doesn't make for a strong, healthy body.

How to end picky eating for good

Photo credit: JackF/iStock / 360/Getty Images

You've probably heard multiple ways to end picky eating — everything from "sneaking" veggies into pasta sauces and smoothies to offering rewards for eating their dinners. While these can work, they’re usually only temporary methods. Once the rewards stop, for example, the healthy eating usually follows suit. Here are five tried-and-true, creative ways to put a stop to picky eating.

Add some spice

Just because they're kids doesn't mean they don't like spice! My 2-year-old actually loves seasoning her own food (with assistance, of course). Just before she turned 2, my husband made a chicken and veggie stir-fry for dinner. He fed her before I had a chance to sit down and eat myself, and my goodness! As soon as I took that first bite my mouth was on fire. My 2-year-old, though, had gobbled it up. The spice didn't seem to bother her, and since this was the first time she had eaten so many veggies, I figured we'd continue to season her food for her. Easy-peasy!

Let them help with dinner

Get your kids involved in the process of cooking a meal — from deciding what to make to actually preparing the meal. Allowing kids to have a say in what they're eating helps them eat it — after all, they picked it out themselves. Give them a few options, such as turkey meatballs, spaghetti, grilled salmon or baked chicken. If they're continually choosing mac 'n' cheese or something equally as unhealthy, let them pick out a veggie (like steamed broccoli or sautéed asparagus) to go with it.

Tell them the health benefits

Kids don't always understand why food is "healthy" and what that even means. If you're trying to get them to eat their veggies, for example, explain to them what makes them so healthy. Veggies help fight off diseases and infections, they build your immune system, they give you energy, they're good for your heart and more. Next time your child refuses to eat a healthy food, calmly explain why it’s so good for them and the benefits the food will have on their body.

Don't give them dozens of options

Get out of the habit of cooking three different meals each night. This only teaches kids that they can get whatever they want. Instead, cook one dinner for the entire family. If your child refuses to eat the meal, they're not going to go hungry. In fact, if they're truly hungry, they will eat whatever it is you put in front of them.

Change it up

Finally, do your best to cook a few different, out-of-the-ordinary meals each week. It's easy to get in the habit of having set things each week, but this only contributes to the underlying problem of picky eating. Give your child a variety of healthy options to help them explore what they like and what they don't. Make dinners exciting and adventurous — and teach them about the foods as you go.

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Sarah Brooks
Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps her very busy. In addition to settling into her new neighborhood and parenthood, she is also a writer and contributor for