Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

5 strategies and recipes to win over the pickiest of eaters

A plate of Mac Chick N Cheese and green peas

From never-ending negotiations — “just take one bite and I’ll give you a cookie” — to that look of disgust you see whenever a vegetable crosses your toddler’s plate, mealtime with a fussy eater is a frustrating experience for many parents.

If your child refuses to broaden their tastes, don’t panic; it’s normal. While picky eating can be an indicator of a more serious health issue, for most children it’s a phase that typically develops around the age of two and declines by the time they turn six. Surviving these years takes a lot of creative thinking and cooking, so here are a few tips and recipes that will get your finicky eater to stop dissing your dishes:

1. Add a healthy twist to a classic favourite

Instead of sneaking vegetables into your child’s food, put a twist on classic meals by using vegetables to boost their nutritional quality. For example, boxed Mac and Cheese is a kid-favourite dish; however, it’s not the healthiest product. RFRK Mac Chick ‘n Cheese, on the other hand, is just as delicious as the original, but offers a nutritious take on the classic with the addition of vitamin-rich carrots.

2. Create colourful spreads

Like adults, children eat with their eyes first. Research shows that colourful plates of food grab kids’ attention, and are therefore more enticing to eat. So, if you want your picky eater to have a nutritionally diverse diet, serve meals with some serious eye appeal, such as Rainbow Veggie Pizza.

3. Make mealtime fun

Get your child to the table by making mealtime a fun and engaging experience. Creating an at-home chili bar is a fantastic way to add some much-needed spice to dinner. Whip up a chili recipe that’s filled with wholesome ingredients (RFRK Chili Chili Bang Bang is my personal favourite), lay out toppings like salsa, sliced avocado, and shredded cheese, and invite your kid to build their own unique chili bowl creation.

4. Involve kids in the kitchen

Children are more likely to chow down on dishes that they had a helping hand in creating. If you want your fussy eater to approach new foods with an open mind, involve them in the cooking process. A simple Yogurt Parfait Popsicle recipe is a great place to start, since kids can help with tasks like washing and chopping fruits and pouring the yogurt mixture into the ice-pop moulds.

5. Redefine the meaning of dessert

Dessert shouldn’t be offered as a reward, but it can be an effective tool for getting children to make healthier food choices. Redefine dessert in your household as fruits and yogurt and remember that creativity is a must if you want your kids to put down the cookies. Tempt your child’s taste buds with a sweet and healthy substitute for high-fat, high-sugar desserts like Peach Donuts.