How to Encourage Kids to Eat a Varied Diet?

Top tips from REAL mums:

  • We got our little guy into raw veggies by encouraging him to CRUNCH right in our ears! He was hesitant with the texture til we told him we wanted to hear the crunch – so he would lean in and crunch away. And later play a game where we would move away and test how far away we could still here it.
  • We talk about all the things that various foods are good for, in children’s language and its fun and its creative. Such as ‘soup’ helps you to be super, runner beans help you to run, bananas help you to be cheerful and bendy etc It often makes the boys laugh and they tend to try things more.
  • We do a lot of positive encouragement at dinner time. If our three year old tries something new we make a big deal and do lots of high fives. We also play games – at the moment the favourite game is to pretend to be a magician by making the food disappear into her mouth while we look away. We also play the guessing game where she closes her eyes and we put food in her mouth and she has to guess what food she is eating ( great way to get her to eat the less desirable items left on her plate).
  • Our boys have to try at least one small bite of each vegetable we have for dinner everyday, if they don’t like it that’s okay, at least they tried. They start getting used to the flavours/textures when they have one little bite everyday and start liking it eventually! My youngest son now eats nearly all cooked vegetables:) and he was/is the most picky eater!!
    Also letting kids help ‘cook’ by chopping veggies etc helps make them want to try .
  • I find lots of little things is better, they sample them all without being phased by a large meal, and I never force my kids to eat anything or finish their plate – that way they learn to eat when they are hungry not just because it’s mealtime and they think they should.
  • We talk about all the senses, is it crunchy? Smell nice? What colour is it? Can you slurp it… It makes for some very interesting conversations
  • My son likes food picks and fun sandwiches cutters, also adding foodlers to make the food really come alive puts a smile on both of our faces, this technique has my son eating tuna sandwiches! !!!
  •  I am a childminder with two children of my own – 6 & 2. We make food as fun as possible and try lots of different things. The children help me prepare and chop the foods and we all try together. Our meals are things like DIY pizza – homemade whole meal bases with their choice of toppings. I find they are much more likely to try something if they have been involved in the process.
  • My sister and I use each others boys to get the other to try/eat more. They is only 4 months different and they always want what the other has. Giving the one who is eating the food lots of encouragement and praise until the other eats it works 9 times out of 10
  • My best tip for encouraging my son is making food look different cut up in different ways he will try more and once he’s tried it he realises he likes it- it’s just getting him to try that’s the hard part
  •  I let my daughter take the lead and help me cook, and not just her own food, today she came up with the ingredients for her dad’s sandwich and I must say I am sure it will be lovely. She is getting really good at making bread and remembers the steps better than me. She loves using the Thermomix too, the moment I switch it on she exclaims: we’re going to make something nice, right mami? 
  • Start right at the beginning by always offering the same food you are eating! My son (and also the babies and toddlers we fostered) was weaned on, then fed, all of the different foods the adults were eating. I just put a bit less chilli in his Thai curry! Eating together is really important and “Children’s menus” at restaurants are best handed straight back!
    Fussy eaters seem to be a western problem and i think we might learn a lot from other parts of the world where “baby food” and “kids” sections in supermarket fridges don’t exist.
  • I’ve always introduced new foods as a small part of the main meal, so they’re not intimidating. Just a little bit on the side of the plate with a meal that they’re going to enjoy so they don’t go hungry because they don’t like the whole meal, and they don’t have to eat it all, just try a little mouthful – usually cut into appealing shapes where possible. Having a special little dip or sauce for a new food or vegetable is a great way of making it interactive and appealing, giving it a fun name is even better, and they’ve always been excited to eat things they’ve helped prepare or cook
  • Be patient. Encourage but don’t bully and respect children’s views. Often it is texture that is the issue so find the right texture for your picky eater. Also encourage participation in all things to do with meals like setting the table, selecting menu items and of course some messy cooking!
  • My kids love to visit the local farmers market for fresh produce, having a 5 year old giggle and snort at seeing his favourites and question what others are is fun for both of us! 
    All 4 of my children like to help in the kitchen, from chopping vegetables, pressing buttons on the Thermomix and sitting at the oven door watching the cakes rise! 
    Our philosophy of try it before you dislike it is hard to implement but we have converted a lot of dislikes with persistence! 
    Bento style lunches allow me to offer a variety of food, putting their least favourite foods next to their favourites in a cute shape or style makes it that little more encouraging!
  • We do food shopping as a family, so they get to see a large variety of fruits and veg regularly. Hubby and I eat with them, and encourage them to try new things, sometimes successfully
  • We get them to pick their own choices of fruit and veg at the shops/farm. They bag them themselves, we then make a salad bar at home with nuts and seeds and they make up their own plates
  •  My youngest is just 3, and a very picky eater – not because he hasn’t eaten different foods in the past, but because he’s a stubborn character and it’s a means of control. The only way I can get him to eat anything approaching a varied diet is to give him a tiny bit of what he really loves when he’s being picky. Luckily he loves cheese, so we often have ‘cheese bribes’ at mealtimes to encourage him to eat his dinner. Who knew chicken curry and cheese was such a winning combination? It’s working though, and he’s expanding the foods he eats again, after perhaps 18 months of a very limited choice (he ate really well until around 18 months old).

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