How to Get Picky Kids to Eat (But, For Real)

How to Get Picky Kids to Eat (But, For Real)

Toby has always been a big eater, but now that he has turned five, he has become a little discerning in his old age. No pasta, no cold cheese, definitely no zucchini. In order to help him along, I turned to modern-day sage Jenny Rosenstrach from Dinner: A Love Story. Here, she shares seven tips for getting picky eaters to chow down…

Says Jenny:

1. Invest Them Up-Front in the shopping part of the process. I’m all for having them cook with you, too, but convincing them to pick things out with you at the ground level — the supermarket, the farmer’s market — is a much lower maintenance (and a much less messy) proposition than having them stir the spaghetti sauce all over the stovetop.

2. Make Sure There’s Always Something Familiar on the Plate. I call this “psychological latch” food, like tater tots or one of those par-baked Trader Joe’s dinner rolls. Or if you are going to make pizza with clams or poached eggs, make sure at least one half of the pie is a classic marinara and mozzarella. It’s just not fair to spring something like Pork Scallopini on them without an anchor.

3. But Pork Milanese is another story. Anything Milanese is likely to knock their socks off.

4. Point and Cook. If you are cooking from cookbooks or blogs, have the kids flip through the pages or scroll through the slideshows, and tell them to point to what looks good. Of course you run the risk of it not looking exactly like the picture, but at least their heads are in the right place when they sit down.

5. Never Answer a Kid When He or She Asks “What’s For Dinner?” Especially if it’s something new. Just repeat these words: “I Don’t Know Yet.” Giving a kid some time to think about a dish that they potentially hate or that is just downright mysterious gives them a window to formulate an argument against the food — and also gives them time to convince you to make them something else. Repeat: I Don’t Know Yet.

6. Re-Package, Re-Spin, Re-Brand. Name dishes after people. Replicate favorite restaurant dishes. When it’s time for sandwiches, use your waffle iron. We’ve turned grilled cheeses and regular old bologna sandwiches into edible masterpieces that way.

7. Apply Broccoli Logic. If all else fails and the only thing you can get your kid to eat is a hot dog, employ my husband Andy’s Broccoli Theory. No matter what broccoli (or kale or quinoa) is sitting next to, it will magically transform the dinner into something you can feel good about feeding your children. You might have a hard time finding this concept in most indexes.

Do you have a picky eater in your family? Do you agree with these? Any tips to add? Thank you so much, Jenny!

P.S. How to get kids to eat vegetables, and two-ingredient pancakes. Plus, Jenny’s ode to rituals and how to get kids to talk at dinner.