Looking for an easy way to reduce picky eating? Some kids can be pretty opinionated about what’s on their plate! Generally I give the advice to have at least one thing at the meal you know they will like, and it’s okay to serve other things you know they don’t necessarily want to eat. But when the list of things they like is fairly small, you may be looking for ways to increase their flexibility with trying new things.
One way to do this is a concept dietitians call food chaining. This is when you slowly modify the food they like but in BABY STEPS, to get them comfortable with it.
The idea is to make one change at a time, leaving everything else the same. Toddlers can get rigid in wanting things a certain way. Making these small changes will likely be noticeable to them, but typically they are more willing to accept a small change than a totally different food right off the bat. You may need to try a change more than one time for them to come around to eating it. That’s okay!
Reduce Picky Eating with Food Chaining
Here are some ideas. I included them as images so you can Pin them and save for later!
If your kid likes rice, they may be willing to try some other grains that look similar and have a similar texture. A lot of children prefer white foods, so this may be an easy transition for them. The idea is that you can serve them the same foods that you are eating- and I know you don’t want to eat the same thing every night!
PB & J is a kid favorite, and as a mom, I’m happy to serve my son PB & J. But, I also want him to accept some different flavors and textures. I had my eyes opened to this when my mom was in town and made a PB & J that Teddy refused to eat because he didn’t like how much jelly was on it. I want him to be able to eat lunch at a friend’s house without having a meltdown that they don’t make PB & J like I do! So even though it’s his favorite thing to find in his lunchbox, I make sure to switch it up each week. I rotate through different breads, nut butters, jellies, etc. and cut his sandwich in different shapes all the time. He almost always eats it, regardless of the variations.
This is one we personally struggle with. My son LOVES chicken nuggets, as most toddlers and kids do! But whenever I serve chicken in any other form- he won’t touch it. The key here is continuing to offer different variations even if your child doesn’t want to eat it. Serve their favorite chicken nuggets some nights, but work it into a rotation with these other options.
French fries aren’t all bad- they do have some vitamins and minerals. But it would be great to work in some options with less added salt and fat. Some kids will get excited about anything in fry shape. If that sounds like your kid, experiment with different baked veggie “fries” like sweet potatoes, butternut squash (you can buy these pre-cut!), parsnip, carrot, or yucca.
Making it work for your family
These are some ideas to get you started. Think about your child’s favorite foods. What is their texture? Color? Flavor? Shape? Temperature? Try to match some of these qualities with new foods for them.
And remember- every meal does NOT have to be a home run. You’re not always going to please them. (Which I’m sure you’ve realized by now!) But if you’re struggling to add variety to your child’s diet and reduce picky eating, making small changes to foods they like is a good place to start!