"Picky" Eater Tip: Expand on What Your Kid is Already Eating - Your Kid's Table

This is the first post, in what I think will be a regular fixture around here. I know many of you have found your way to my blog because you want your kid’s to eat more, so I want to continue to give you specific strategies on a regular basis. Of course, I always include tips in just about every post I write and will keep doing that, too! This series is titled “Picky” Eater Tips. Please take note of the quotations. I actually hate the label picky eater and generally avoid using it, except on this blog. Unfortunately, this is a cultural term that everyone understands immediately. I would love to title the series: Limited Eater Tips or Increase Your Kid’s Food Variety… but I don’t think I will reach as many people and it would kind of defeat the purpose. So, “Picky” Eater, it is. While I am on the subject though (real quick) try to refrain from using this label yourself, especially in front of your kiddo, even if they are only a toddler. It constantly amazes me how kids (and adults for that matter) let their progress be limited because of someone else’s label. Besides, you also want to create a positive vibe around eating and using this label, when you think about it, is pretty negative. Okay, I am climbing down off my soap box! On to the tip…


One of the first things I do when I begin working with a kid that has a limited diet (aka: is picky) is to make a list of everything they actually eat. I do mean everything, including sweets. Sometimes this is a very short list, that’s ok. If it is very short, I also write down some of the things they eat sometimes or have at least tried. You will be surprised how helpful it is to see it all down in front of you. In some cases, it makes people feel better because you realize your kid is actually eating more than you thought. In other cases, it can make you feel worse if there are only a few foods on the list. I don’t want to make you feel worse, but in the long run it will help improve the variety of what they are eating.

Once you have your list (make sure you really think about everything), start brainstorming other foods that are similar to the ones on your list. Then write down the ideas next to the food. For example, let’s say raisins are on your list, then dried cranberries would be something I would write down next to it. Okay, stay with me here, I am going to give lots more examples in a minute. If your child is a very “picky” eater then you are going to want to keep the foods as similar as possible. Although, don’t let this limit you, it is still good to expose your “picky” eater to a large variety of foods, even if they do refuse them – it is not a waste of time.

I actually have a perfect example for this…

I have been having a lot of difficulty getting my 10 month old to eat, transitioning to food at all has been difficult. We are focusing on table foods at this point and I haven’t quite figured out why he is refusing so many foods. When I was on the brink of meltdown this week (after another refused meal that I put a lot of effort into) I turned to writing my list and it has really helped. Here is a pic of the list I made for Isaac.


Notice I don’t have ideas for every single food he eats, but I have enough to get me going for a week or two. If I am still struggling then, I will revisit this and try to come up with some more ideas.

I don’t want to mislead you here, and you are probably already thinking, “That’s great, but my kid isn’t going to eat dried cranberries.”  They very well may not, well, at least the first time you try anyways (check out Try and Try 12 Times for more on this). There is some reason your kid feels comfortable eating pretzels, cheerios, cookies, or whatever it is for your kid. Changing it up slightly is more likely to go over well than changing it up a lot. The more familiar the food is to them, the more likely they are to give it a try. It is important to remember all of the Basic Strategies I have shared, too, and use them in conjunction with this tip. Especially, making sure you have another preferred food available. If you are taking raisins away, and changing it to dried cranberries, then they aren’t a preferred food until they eat it, so make sure you serve the new food with something that is comfortable. Also, you don’t necessarily have to point out that the food is different, but don’t try to trick them either (They aren’t really going to expand their variety if they think they are eating something else).  At the same time, you may lose some kids if they bite into something expecting it taste like something else. Kids can get distrustful fast, especially when it comes to their food. You will have to use some trial and error and see what is a better approach for your kid. 

The main idea is to give you more ideas for new foods to try. Once they have started eating some of these foods that are slightly different you can change it slightly again. For instance, Isaac barely eats yogurt, a staple in our house. If I can get him eating banana yogurt (because he likes banana so much), I can slowly introduce other combinations like strawberry/banana yogurt and then ultimately just strawberry yogurt. It’s like you are slowly transitioning them into more foods by using the foods they already eat. Does that make sense? I know this one is a little complicated, but I wanted to share it because I think it will be very helpful for those of you that are struggling with increasing food variety.

One last thing. Take a look at your list on the whole. Does anything stand out? Sometimes there are patterns that may give you some insight about how your kid is selecting food. For instance, all the foods may be white or tan in color, mostly crunchy, or very soft. Take note and use that as your starting point. If all the foods are tan, try other tan foods you can think of first and then slowly change the color. Again, I hope I am not losing anyone here. I am getting into some therapeutic strategies here. Please, ask questions! And, let me know how the lists are going!

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my email list, I don’t post often, but when I do, I share valuable tips that can help your little one with eating or sensory processing. The sign-up is below and at the top of the right side-bar.

More on Picky Eating

Sensory Processing and Picky Eating

Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating

When Has Picky Eating Gone Too Far?

Creating a Positive Mealtime for Kids

Managing Family Meals with a Picky Eater

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