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In the Kitchen
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By Katie Goodman
I have two very different eaters. One is incredibly picky and always has been. The other was the baby who put everything in her mouth, but is now going through a slight picky phase. Kids don’t know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In fact, it seems that my kids often form opinions about food that they’ve never even tasted!
“Yuck – I hate cauliflower!”
Then I gently bring it to their attention: “Have you ever tried cauliflower?”
“Well … It looks funny.”
“But what does it taste like?”
I’m sure these conversations about food are something that all parents can relate to. Meal time is often a frustrating experience for all involved. I’m not an expert, and my kids aren’t perfect eaters, but I thought I’d share a few of the ways we’ve learned to make food a little more exciting.


With a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you can make lunchtime (or dinner) a fun experience for everyone involved. Don’t stress it! What your child eats over the course of a week is more important than each day.
1. Cookie-Cutter It.
Kidskitchen Differentshapes
Maximize on what your child is really into at the moment. Madeline loves shapes, so I like to cut her sandwiches out in cookie cutter shapes (I eat the leftover scraps).
We’ve done the same thing with cheese, meat, and crackers when making homemade “lunchables.”
Mandolines are also great tools for cutting foods differently. You can make thin slices, matchsticks, or waffle cut.
It doesn’t take much time and it might seem silly to an adult, but it makes lunch more fun for her.
Kidskitchen Supremeoranges
Try this how to supreme citrus tutorial for a different way to present citrus to your children. My kids love eating citrus without the segments being surrounded by the often-bitter pith.
2. Focus on Color.
Not only are bright, colorful foods naturally more appealing to children, but they’re also better for them. Eating a rainbow a day will help your child’s body get the wide variety of nutrients that it needs to grow strong and healthy. And it’s fun.
Make a game out of it:

  • Have a contest to see who can eat a rainbow first.
  • Make a chart to keep track of what you and your child have eaten each day.
  • Have them help grocery shop so you can pick out a rainbow of produce together.
  • Present the colors in fun ways. I can’t wait to try this Rainbow French Toast.

Kidskitchen Fruitparfait
Yogurt, fruit, and granola parfaits are a fun, colorful way to eat your fruits.
3. Use Fun Names.
Kidskitchen Babytrees
Another thing that might seem silly to an adult, but for someone under the age of 5, it instantly changes their attitude about a food if you call it a fun name.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t teach them the true names of fruits and vegetables. My kids certainly know that broccoli is really “broccoli,” but they like to call the little florets “baby trees” instead. Sliced carrots could be “golden coins,” for another example.
4. Serve it up Differently.
Kidskitchen Abcwrap
Try stuffing a wrap or a pita with some of your child’s favorite sandwich fillings. Or maybe something not so typical.This ABC Turkey Wrap has mayo, avocado, bacon and cheese.
Tired of sliced pears or apple wedges? Make fruit kebabs instead. Sticks filled with cubes of brightly colored fruit are always fun. Include a healthy dip option as well, such as yogurt. Kids love to dip!
You can even make vegetable kebabs. In the summertime, cherry tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of mozzarella are delicious treats.
Miniaturized foods are always fun, too. Mini pizzas on English muffins, bite sized sandwiches, or mini muffins are sure to catch some attention.
Kidskitchen Smoothies
Smoothies are great for getting nutrition in. Experiment with different fruits (and even vegetables) for fun treats. I especially like smoothies in the winter when some of our favorites fruits aren’t in season. I add low-fat Greek yogurt, fresh orange juice, and flax meal to the fruit.
5. Involve them in the Food Selection.
Kidskitchen Hardboiledegg
Go grocery shopping together. I know it isn’t always fun to bring children along. And personally I can only handle bringing one at a time on a trip, but when I do, I like to keep them involved in the process. I’ll let them pick one or two new things each trip that they think they would like to try.
With younger ones, point out the names of the produce. Use produce to practice colors since there are so many different colors and types.
With older children you can talk to them about why a certain fruit or vegetable is good for you in a non-threatening way. (i.e. carrots are good for your eyes). Appeal to their developing reasoning skills.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Give Up!
Don’t forget that just because a presented food was not eaten doesn’t mean the meal was a failure. Research has shown that some children need to be presented with a new food as many as ten times before they are willing to accept it.
Madeline doesn’t love to eat hard boiled eggs yet, but she loves to hold and touch them and look inside while I eat them.
Each time your child sees, touches, and smells a new food, they are learning. And the more times they see it and know what it is, the more likely they are to eventually give it a try.
If your child is set on picky (like one of mine), the best you can do is to keep offering new foods (it is their choice whether or not to try it) and keep setting a good example yourself.
About the Author:
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Katie Goodman blogs at goodLife {eats} where she shares what she finds good in the kitchen and in life through recipes, family memories, and yummy photography. She also works as a freelance food writer and photographer for various sites. Outside of cooking, Katie loves reading, gardening, visiting family, and attending the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she resides with her husband and two children.


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