Table Tricks for Picky Eaters


I’ve yet to meet a young child who ate everything on their plate with gusto all the time, and without making a mess. In fact, I could apply this to men too, but I’ll stay within the realm of young children for this post. Young kids are notoriously picky eaters. “You’ll have to introduce the same food at least 10 times before a child will eat it,” say the doctors and pedia books. This doesn’t seem to apply to cookies or chocolate, does it, just the nutritious foods they need to eat! What they really mean to say is, “Keep giving them the same food until you wear them down.”

And just think of all the money we’d save if we didn’t need to buy bibs or floor mats to catch all that food that we keep re-introducing. Of course, if you have a dog, you may be less likely to need a floor mat or Dust Buster to pick up the scraps. But I’d rather not change my child’s clothes after every meal, so a catchy-bib is de rigueur wardrobe for dining.

Nevertheless, I’ve come up with some “table tricks” that not only save me from having to reintroduce every food item my daughter doesn’t instantly like, but also saves on the clean-up factors, ultimately leading to the manna of every mom, More Me Time!

  • “The No Pile”:  Before every meal I indicate a space on my daughter’s plate or the table where the food she doesn’t like will go.  I encourage her to taste new things first, but instead of throwing any “yucky” food on the floor, she now pointedly puts it in her “no pile.” (This works only after the “testing gravity” stage of older babies.)
  • Food Games: In our house, we now have Jumping Green Beans (beans that make her jump when she eats them), Laughing Beans, Disappearing Carrots (they make her invisible whilst chewing) and Makes-You-Fast Asparagus (as if she needed any more speed!). All of these culinary techniques tend to result in little girly giggles as she jumps/laughs/hides/runs in place from Mom and giggles from Mom at having outwitted her little girl.
  • “Mine!”: Playing upon the toddler motto of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine,” I tell her that Daddy will eat her unwanted food. Quickly, she’ll reach for it and eat it because there’s no way Daddy, or anyone else, is going to eat her food! Note that this is not a failsafe method especially if she actually wants to share. (And she tends to share only what she doesn’t love, LOL!)
  • Creative Cooking: There are lots of ways to hide food within food, but some kids just don’t go for it; their taste buds are too clever. But funnily enough, I’ve found different preparations of the same food item can work. For instance, steamed broccoli ends up in the no pile, but a bowl of broccoli cheese soup is licked clean. Spinach on its own is a highly developed taste, but diced spinach mixed with mac and cheese (or hidden in chili–in fact, lots of veggies can be hidden in chili) is rarely  noticed. And one friend labels her food differently, too, such as fish sticks become “ocean fries.” Mmm!
  • Bribery: The old stand-by, coercion.  When all else fails, I urge my daughter to eat her food by promising some of her favorites for dessert, like various fruits or yogurt.
  • Dips and Sauces: Toddlers love to explore new things, so why not introduce some healthy sauces to the old-standbys? Like yogurt w/ a touch of cucumber to dip in, or homemade BBQ sauce. At my table, ketchup is making everything taste better lately.

Ah, the tricks we parents resort to in order to get our kids to eat healthy! Tell us if you have any tips, too; we’d love to hear from you!


10 responses to this post.

  1. I found you through MBC. I love the disappearing carrots idea! That could be a lot of fun! Thanks!


  2. Posted by yangmommy on February 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    MBC’s a great network, isn’t it! Good luck with your carrots (of course, carrot cake tends to go down well, too ;> )


  3. Hi! As I have a four-year old who eats. nothing. but. waffles. (seriously) I’m always looking for tips – these are good ones! One I found that works, at least temporarily, I stole from a Charlie and Lola book – that is to “rename” foods. I acutally got him to eat a whole fish stick (which he usually hates) by reanmaing them “ocean nibbles.” He did wise up by about the third time I served them, but it worked for a while…

    Saw you on the writers group on MBC – love this post, will read more! I’m here: if you get a chance to drop by :).


  4. Btw – the login is my old wordpress blog – I don’t update that one anymore!



  5. Posted by yangmommy on February 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Peryl,

    I tried doing “ocean fingers” / “ocean stix”, you name it, but nothing, NOTHING worked for her and fishsticks! I remember loving them as a kid myself so I’m not sure why my daughter doesn’t. But I shant complain too much–if she sees me eating tuna or salmon steak, she has to “have my own!” 🙂

    I love MBC! Are you in Seattle then? I’ll drop your blog soon and see you around MBC too 🙂


  6. Posted by Tracy on February 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Fish sticks, anything that is elongated is “french fries” for my carbotarian 🙂

    If you think “mine” is bad, wait until they say “now” LOL

    Btw I love the idea of a no pile, you’ll be glad to hear it works most of the time!


  7. Posted by yangmommy on February 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Why say “now” when whining and crying works just as well 🙂

    Ooh, glad the “no pile” works for you too. Or as I sometimes nicname it, “Daddy’s Seconds” 😉


  8. Thanks for visiting – yes, I am in Seattle! I forget that people have actual physical locations, and don’t just exist in the blogosphere… where are you?



    • Posted by yangmommy on February 25, 2010 at 5:55 pm

      I have family in Seattle and, one of my daughter’s favorite books is “The Wheedle on the Needle: 🙂
      I’m in Maryland, via way of NY, England and Florida. Yin Mama, my co-blogger, currently resides in sunny Florida, via way of NY. Us New Yorkers tend to stick together 😉


  9. Posted by yinmama on February 28, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Actually that’s South Florida by way of Atlanta, by way of Clearwater, by way of South Florida (for most of my childhood), by way of New York. I don’t know how good I have it until I leave but if I hadn’t left I wouldn’t have met amazing friends like Yang Mommy!


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