How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Picky Eaters


Moms often wonder if there is a secret to getting their kids to stop being so picky and to be wiling to eat more than just “kid food”. I didn’t set out to be some kind of mom guru that had kids that were great eaters. But it happened slowly, over time, and I’ve been reflecting on what we might have done that has nudged them this way. So how do you get kids to eat a wide variety of healthy foods or help picky eaters to be willing to try new foods? 

Here is a sample menu from the last two weeks at our house:

  • Chicken shawarma, naan, tzatziki sauce, and sliced cucumbers
  • Cuban ropa vieja and black beans
  • Southwestern black bean salad with cilantro dressing
  • Trinidadian curry and plantains
  • Grilled chicken, gazpacho, and roasted sweet potatoes
  • Strawberry spinach salad with grilled salmon
  • Beef stew and mixed green salad


I have four children, ages 17, 14, 7, and 5, and all of them will eat all of these meals. I don’t threaten, beg, or bribe them to eat them. In fact, when we told the little kids we were having chicken shawarma for dinner they said, “Yay! That’s my favorite!”

Eat Meals Together

This is such old advice, that it seems kind of cliché, but I do think it’s one factor that’s contributed to our children not being picky eaters. We sit down and have dinner together every night. When my husband and I were first married we always tried to have dinner together, and when we had children, they joined that ritual with us. We never changed what we were eating when the kids came along. We just kept eating the wide variety of foods we always had, and they joined in.

Eat mixed up foods

One of the things that I think our family inadvertently did that resulted in them being willing to eat almost anything, was that we tend to eat more “mixed up” foods. What I mean by that, is that it’s rare for us to eat a meal of meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. Most of our proteins, starches, and vegetables are all mixed together. My husband’s family is from the Caribbean, where stews, curries, and rice based dishes are common. I also realized early on in our marriage, that it was more economical and we used less meat, if I served soups and stews, instead of whole cuts of meat as the main dish. We have always, even from the time our children were babies, served them more “mixed up” meals.

My theory as to why this works is that kids get used to a mix of flavors in their food. It’s also really hard to pick out the bits of whatever you don’t like out of  a soup or a curry, so eventually you just learn over time to stop being so picky and accept new tastes. 

Adopt the mindset that food is food

I’ve noticed that a tendency of many Western parents is to assume that kids will only eat foods that look like “kid food.” I think because of my husband’s cultural influence on our eating, I’ve realized that that dismisses the reality that kids all over the world are not eating only hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and pizza.

There is no such thing as “kid food.” Food is food. A kid won’t think “chicken shawarma” is weird unless someone tells them that it is. 

You decide what, they decide how much

I think it’s really important not to create power struggles around food even with picky eaters. Years ago, I read the work of Ellyn Satter, who writes about raising children who are healthy eaters. One of the main things I pulled out of this was that parents and children can divide the responsibilities of eating. The parent decides what food comes into the house and what food to serve. The child decides what, of the provided options, they will eat, and how much. We do not make kids clean their plate, we don’t make them eat their leftover dinner for breakfast, and we don’t threaten them or plead with them to eat. Meals are really calm and enjoyable. All of my kids seem to go through a phase when they are between the ages of 2-4, where they refuse salads and vegetables. I don’t make a big deal about it. I do insist on putting at least a taste of everything on their plate. They don’t have to eat it, but they get used to seeing it there, and it seems like in all cases, they eventually see it enough that they are willing to try it.

Do you have kids that are adventurous eaters? Or do you struggle with kids that are picky?