5 Ways to Conquer Picky Eating in Kids

We all know fruits and vegetables are key to a healthy diet, yet they’re not always easy to fit into our hectic lifestyles. On top of that, plenty of us have picky eaters at home, who take an hour just to eat a couple of green beans.

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If this sounds like your little one, rest assured you’re not alone. Picky eating starts in the toddler and preschool years and can affect as many as 20 percent of children, according to the Children’s Health Network. The good news, though, is that most kids eventually grow out of it — and go on to tolerate and even enjoy a wider variety of foods.

Still, none of us want our dinner table to feel like a battlefield, but we do want to protect our family by offering a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Many fruits and vegetables contain substances known to boost health and stave off disease. Apples, for example, are rich in boron, an essential trace element that helps harden bones; they also contain pectin which aids in reducing levels of cholesterol. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends filling two-thirds of your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

If that sounds impossible, don’t fret. Try these five kid-tested strategies to encourage even the pickiest eaters.

Dive into dips. What is it about dips that make them so enticing? Kids will eat almost anything with a tasty dip in hand. Serve carrot sticks, snap peas, cucumber rounds, and whole grain crackers with hummus, cottage cheese, or ranch dressing. Whisk together a little apple sauce, yogurt, and maple syrup for a delicious fruit dip, or make a healthier caramel dip for apples.

Head to the farm. Visit a pick-your-own farm or farmer’s market. These family outings can be a lot of fun and they get the kids excited about sampling the produce directly out of the field or from beautiful displays. You can make this a regular weekly trip to the market or annual event to pick your produce from the field.

Cook together. When kids have a hand in making a meal, they’re more likely to eat it. Small children can wash vegetables, while older children can peel and slice vegetables, or make a simple salad.

Keep it handy. It’s tempting after a long day at work or school to resort to fast food, but if you keep fruits and vegetables washed, prepped, and ready to go, you’re more likely to eat them. Wash grapes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and other produce on the weekend. Store them in attractive see-through containers in the refrigerator, and then pull the containers out for quick and easy snacks after school. Prep smaller containers of fruits and vegetables on the weekends for lunch boxes, as well. Keep them in the fridge, and you’re ready to go on busy mornings.

Start at the store. Cutting snacks and sweets entirely from your family’s diet can backfire, but it’s absolutely fine to limit the amount of junk food you bring home from the store. Let your child pick one or two favorite foods each week. When the snack’s gone, it’s gone.

Don’t despair if your child refuses to eat anything green. Children often need to try a food multiple times before they like it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Continue to offer healthy choices and set a good example yourself.