How To Avoid Raising A Picky Eater

Life's not all mac n' cheese and hot dogs.


It’d be a dream to have a kid you could take to a David Chang restaurant; who’d be down with eating some pork buns or octopus or whatever. But chances are way better you could end up with a picky eater. And that’s a Momofuku-ing shame.

Dinner time can be tougher than beef jerky when you have a fussy eater, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you probably already know what you’re doing wrong — tablet streaming Paw Patrol at the table, all-you-can-eat hot dogs and mac n’ cheese — but are having a tough time making a change. It’s time to start thinking outside the lunch box and inside the Bento box.

Here are a few uncommon tips for expanding your kid’s palette, plus this trove of wisdom from a mother who doesn’t want you to blow it like she almost did. Soon enough, Junior will be requesting a high chair at Má Pêche.

Flickr / David Goehring

At the Table

You already know that eating as a family on a regular schedule is the way to go. There are loads of social and health benefits associated with family dinners, but at a more fundamental level, kids love schedules and imitating you. Ergo, regularly scheduled family mealtimes can open doors to trying new things. Perhaps the most important part yet least considered benefit is that it forces everyone to slow down. Pressuring or rushing a kid to eat can lead to stress and stubbornness, and if you’re done before they are, they’ll want to leave the table too. So, hang out. Talk. Relax. That never hurt anyone.


A little gamified exploration can go a long way — just think about all those meals your Fitbit helped you burn. Some ways to make tasting new things an adventure: Make a “food passport” and reward your kid with a stamp when they try something new. (Next stop … Pea-tugal?) Or lay out a bunch of foods with the same color but different textures to create a tasting game where kids can mark what they like or don’t like with stickers or drawings. Alternatively, you can gamify food with actual games. These 8 apps will get them familiar with types of cuisines, nutrition, following recipes, and cleaning up the kitchen, which they still won’t do, but they’ll be familiar with it.


Shapes and Texture

Everyone likes a good presentation. Put the old cookie cutter to good use and slice some delights into stars or footballs or Santas. Eating shapes is way more fun than eating non-shapes (Momofuku Shape Bar? Someone get Chang on the horn.). Consider playing with textures and swapping in divergent foods with similar mouth-feels. Kid likes buttered pasta? How about buttered spaghetti squash?

Away from the Table

There are ways to get your kid excited about new food when they are not eating it. For instance, you can reinforce food adventurism by reading books. These celebrate a diverse range of cuisines, while this one will have you pondering why there’s bac-on but no bac-off. For even more buy in, bring them in the kitchen to start cooking with you. That was a game-changer for this guy, whose son now excitedly prepares tongue tacos. It’s still effective even without the quarter-ton steer in your backyard meat locker — the kid’s much more likely to want to eat the salad if they made the vinaigrette — as long as you can resist the urge to teach them food lessons courtesy of Homer Simpson.

Want tips, tricks, and advice that you’ll actually use? Click here to sign up for our email.