Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Raising Picky Eaters

By Paige Brady, August 28, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
Seems like kids are just as picky about eating as they were a couple of years ago when we first ran this blog. Enjoy this encore presentation! Apple Sandwiches We all know kids are picky eaters, right? Let's teach them a new way to be picky. Pick whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies along with healthy proteins. Impossible? Not if you give them choices and very tasty food. A good place to start is by talking to your kids. Anytime is good but natural launching pad activities are when you are grocery shopping or cooking dinner. Get their brains thinking about what food does for us - how it helps us grow, keeps us healthy, gives us energy for sports, helps our brains learn and keeps us feeling good. Those topics easily transition into why it's important to eat healthy foods and not stuff that gunks up our bodies. Veggies and HummusEven very young children can understand the basics. That's why they are bombarded with commercial messaging -marketers know it works! Get your message in their ears whenever you have a chance. Of course, if you make it fun, that's all the better. Here are some ideas. Get Real Support your kids in choosing foods that look like…well…real food. Show your kids what carrots, bananas, beans and lettuce look like before they're harvested. Visit a local farm if you can. Help them see that fresh apples don't turn into fluorescent blue applesauce and strawberries don't turn into bright pink fruit chews without the help of a chemistry set. Challenge them to eat foods that haven't changed very much from growing in the field to being served on their plate. You can award stickers for every "real" food eaten. When they've earned 25 stickers, you could reward them with a special prize. Eat a Rainbow Edamame GuacamoleEncourage your kids to eat a rainbow of colors every day. (Natural ones, that is!) When shopping, ask them to help you pick out an assortment of colorful fruits and veggies. When you get home, keep them accessible! Pre-wash fruit and keep carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks and sliced bell peppers on hand for a quick, healthy snack. Make a chart and a game out of seeing how many days get filled up with all the colors in the rainbow. Hand Over the Reins Yes, sometimes kids balk at veggies and think the color green is reserved for frogs, trees and crayons. Giving them a say in the matter seems to help. Would you like to have broccoli or peas with dinner? Do you want your salad with lunch or dinner? Do you prefer cooked carrots or raw carrots? Note that the option is which veggie, not an option for no veggies. Offering favorite dressings and sauces to perk up a new food often helps too. Once a week, hand control over to the kids and let them create a menu for a family dinner. Ground rules: it must include a range of whole foods and kids get to help cook it (even if it does make a mess of the kitchen!). On Duty Whole Wheat SconesEnlist your kids' help in making sure the whole family is on the right track. For example, show your kids wheat growing in a field and explain how whole wheat berries are ground into flour to make yummy stuff like crackers and pasta. But with refined grains, the bran and germ are stripped away. Hey! Those are the most important parts for helping our bodies be healthy and strong. What a rip off! (Indignation seems to work especially well with grade schoolers who are forever looking to make sure they are being treated fairly on the playground!) Give your kids "duty patrol" where they can check up on menu plans, shopping lists and, if they are really into this whole patrol thing, ingredient panels on packaged foods. Turkey QuicheTruth? In our culture, all of this is hard. Many of the other kids at school are going to have food in their lunches that look and taste different. And with the way our food system is set up, the odds are stacked against parents. We have to keep working on educating our kids over and over and over again. We have to be willing to be the "mean parent" who doesn't serve what everyone else's parent does. But helping our kids navigate the minefields of our food supply is just as important as any of our other parental duties…and just as challenging and rewarding. We win some food battles and we lose some - I know I do. What battles are you winning and how?




Maria says ...
Great article! Love all the tips!
09/01/2011 7:49:59 AM CDT
Maria says ...
Great article with great tips! Really enjoyed it.
09/01/2011 7:51:57 AM CDT
Stacey Murphy says ...
Thanks for posting this. My son eats very little because he doesn't like most foods but this helped me refocus my shopping. I needed the support to not cave in and buy the bad stuff just so he'll eat
09/01/2011 11:12:28 AM CDT
Deanna says ...
My family does this! My kids don't really like to eat at others homes because they will be fed things like, white bread and american cheese. They like the junky treats sometimes but overall love healthy good food. Just yesterday my 8 year old son was begging me to make my white bean vegetable soup. I dont know when the last time he had a chicken finger was. He wont even eat hotdogs. The older two are vegetarians and at college my daughter is happily making her beans and salads. i just have one rule with food. Everytime we eat it you have to have two bites, whether you know you like it or not. And no separate meals. Offering good choices and eating well yourself is the main factor..... parents can't eat separate meals either! good luck!
09/01/2011 2:34:15 PM CDT
Falon says ...
Love this!!! Great info!!!
09/02/2011 9:32:06 AM CDT
Dianna says ...
The tips here are great, so thank you. My daughter and I have tried to incorporate good foods into items that are home cooked, such as any veggies and fruites into pancakes, because I use a juicer and this is the liquid for the pancakes. My 4 yr. old grandson hasn't noticed a difference between the original pancakes and these nutritious ones.
09/04/2011 6:37:36 PM CDT
Natasha Gavin says ...
Readers will love an amazing book: Charlotte Hume, The Great Big Vegetable Challenge. Three recipes with every veg in the alphabet, by a mum who struggled with her veg phobic 8 year old. Great ideas, a good laugh, and at least one recipe your child will love. (And you can buy it second hand for peanuts ;)
09/06/2011 3:59:53 PM CDT
Health Insurance says ...
I sincerely agree about being the mean parents sometimes and not serve what others are serving. After all, at the end of the day, these are your children and you are responsible for making them healthy and helping them grow up knowing what good nutrition is. Kudos to you for this post. Keep all the health tips coming!
10/05/2011 12:34:05 AM CDT
Maxine says ...
I think picking the most opportune time to encourage trying a new food can help. I have found my son to be more open to trying a new food when he is hungry as opposed to a time when the clock says it is meal time and he is not so hungry. One day he was super hungry and gobbled up a bowl of edamame that was sitting out and he has been an edamame fan ever since.
01/30/2012 12:11:19 PM CST
Chloe says ...
I think it is important that children eat the same foods as you (in smaller portions of course) at the same time as you at the dinner table. I love your point that kids should help out making the family meal once a week- what a great idea! Please keep up the great and informative work.
04/02/2012 10:42:30 AM CDT