10 ways to get your kids to eat

I hear from moms all the time that their kids won't eat anything they cook. I've been there too. It is so discouraging to spend an hour making dinner just to have your kids turn their noses up at it (or just as bad, eat it with a steady stream of complaints).

I've been blessed with kids who eat most things. But I think part of the reason they'll eat what I serve is the way we've raised them. Here are some things we do at home that I believe help my kids to eat what's put in front of them.

Be a good example. Do you and your spouse eat what's on the table? How do you act when you try something new, or when you are served something that's not your favorite? Do you make faces at your food and complain about it, or do you eat it with a smile?

Don't let them eat something else
when there's already dinner on the table. If my kids don't like dinner, they either eat it or wait until the next time we eat. Sometimes I'll even go so far as to save it for a snack in case they start complaining of hunger half an hour later. Usually my kids manage to choke down a decent amount.

Get them involved in meal preparation. When my kids help me make dinner, they are much more likely to try new foods and to enjoy what is served, because they are more invested in the meal. Be sure to give plenty of praise and recognition when you sit down to eat.

Give them choices at the table. Try serving two vegetables so your kids can choose between them. We also enjoy meals where everyone can pick their own ingredients, such as tacos and rice bowls.

Make your demands do-able. My kids are much more likely to succeed at eating five bites of something than a whole plateful. When I demand too much, they just give up. When I give them a reasonable (and easily quantifiable) amount to eat, they usually follow through.

Be honest and have fun. I don't try to hide vegetables. If we're having zucchini bread or a spinach smoothie, we often have fun trying to guess the "secret" ingredients.

Cut off snacks. One day, I realized that my two-year-old was snacking and snacking, and then she was rarely hungry for meals. I have learned to say no more often (and especially in the 90 minutes before meals), and she's eating more now. I used to think it was terrible to let my kids go hungry, but I'm not starving them. I'm just helping them develop a healthy appetite for the upcoming meal.

Believe that your child will eventually like the food. Instead of accepting that your child hates a certain type of food, change your mindset. Perhaps they just haven't tried it enough times yet—a lot of articles mention the number 15. My son hates cucumbers, but I'm encouraging him to continue trying a bite each time they're served.

Try serving hated foods in new ways. Recently I tried a fried rice dish with cooked cucumbers, and my cucumber-hating son liked them much better than raw, probably because the flavor was milder. Dressing foods up in fun ways (sprinkles, fancy shapes, etc.), can also go a long way toward helping kids try foods.

Try new foods for fun. I have a hobby of picking up "weird fruit" and other new foods at the grocery store. It can be hard to spend $4 on a piece of fruit, but to me, it's worth it because I'm teaching my children—and myself—to be more adventurous in our eating.

Do you have any tips? Please share!

Inspiration: 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make; French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon


  1. I agree with all these things and have tried them. Sadly, it's still a big battle. I think we just need years of patience sometimes! I was so picky growing up but now I'll eat things I bet my mother NEVER thought I would eat. Yet, I still have serious food issues. Most of the time NOTHING sounds good to eat and I have to choke down my food. I have lots of food aversions from having chemotherapy as a teen. Food is just difficult at our house- so I've been struggling for years to get us to eat healthier. Oh well. Slowly but surely! We like to get fun new fruit and such at the store too- just to try.

  2. I know I'm guilty of allowing my kids to eat something else if they don't like what we're serving. Thanks for all the great tips!

  3. We've seen our nephew having a lot of issues with food, so *B* and I have talked about it quite a bit. I really like your suggestions :o)