3 Tips for Handling Picky Eaters

Written by Anne Mercado, greeneggsandmoms.com

Anne Mercado lives in Manila, Philippines and has a school-aged kiddo who is quite a handful. Her only real hobbies are reading, writing, watching cable, and blogging. Anne believes that the secret to raising kids is three-fold: devouring parenting information, learning from others’ experiences, and applying what’s right for your family. She’s been featured on several sites, and you can read some of her articles here.

Image: Cornell University Food and Brand Lab

If you knew 3 insanely easy ways to get picky eaters to eat more fruits and vegetables…would you implement them today? Sure, studies aren’t always 100% correct… But what’s important is to try different ways to increase the chances of your little picky eater to munch on greens.

“I’ve tried all the known tips for picky eaters, why should I read this now?”

Because you won’t find these in the usual “How to Get Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies” posts. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. They are still helpful, but I wanted to give you more methods to try. Thanks to research studies, you can now understand why kids are picky eaters to reduce stress and keep your sanity.

How to present food to picky eaters:

1. Appearance matters!

In a study by Cornell University and the London Metropolitan University, researchers found that children have the following visual preferences during mealtime:

-Entrees located on a plate’s lower portion

-Arranging food in a pattern or design

-7 different components or kinds of food

-6 different food colors

Keep these in mind when you plate for the next meal, and see how your child responds to the food.

2. Portions and plating

These definitely go together, and shortly, you’ll find out why. An article from the Huffington Post suggests offering small portions when introducing new food to children. And it makes sense because doing so avoids overwhelming them.

Image: Famousdog

Delbouf Illusion: The more white space surrounds the black circle, the smaller it appears. In reality, both black circles are of same size. Take advantage of optical illusions to make food portions seem smaller than they really are, making the plate more inviting to your child:

Use large plates for fruits and vegetables to create the perception of less food and increase the likelihood of consumption.

On the other hand, if you want to discourage consumption of not-so-healthy food such as cakes and other sweets, use small plates to trick the eye into thinking the serving portion is larger than it is. This form of trickery – in the name of healthy eating – is backed by a study from Cornell University on how optical illusions cause us to incorrectly approximate serving sizes.

3.  Serve water with raw vegetables

Yup, you read that right: serve water. A study done by the University of Oregon and Michigan State University found that preschoolers consumed more raw vegetables when served with water. According to one of the researchers from the study, Bettina Cornwell, “Our taste preferences are heavily influenced by repeated exposure to particular foods and drinks.”

Sodas are usually associated with unhealthy food. Sodas or colas are usually associated with high-calorie and salty food – pizza, burgers and fries – while iced tea is associated with restaurant food. If your child has these associations, serving soda with veggies at home may result to her wanting high-calorie food and rejecting greens. To prevent this from happening, have water to wash down food as much as possible. Serving water also provides fewer distractions, so your kiddo can focus on the healthy stuff.

4. Bonus: Smile

According to this study published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, children’s desire to eat certain food is influenced by an adult’s emotion and facial expression. Though researchers did not measure actual food consumption, the findings suggest that parents who show positive emotions, such as pleasure while eating fruits and vegetables, may increase the chances of their children enjoying the same food. So, be mindful of your expressions at the dining table since children pick-up on such cues.

“Will these tips work at my house?”

The studies are here to provide more solutions for getting picky eaters to reach for greens. However, the true test is how your little one responds to these tips. And the only way to find out is to try.



  1. Thank you sooooo much for featuring me here. I am deeply honored :)

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