There’s no doubt that kids like to eat foods they’re familiar with but when you have picky eaters, they can fall into a pattern of eating the same foods over and over again. For some kids, getting them to eat much of anything is a battle in and of itself, but without a variety of foods in their diets, they’re missing out on the nutrition they need. The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional chef, find the perfect recipe, or drive yourself crazy looking for ways to serve new foods. With a few simple strategies, consistency, and a bit of creativity you can add variety to your kid’s diet.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- How adding variety to your kid’s diet can help nix picky eating.
- Easy ways to add more variety to your kid’s diet and encourage healthy eating.
ADD A VARIETY OF FOODS TO YOUR KID’S DIET TO FIX PICKY EATING
You already know that getting a variety of foods in your kid’s diet is the way to get in vitamins, minerals, and a ton of nutrition, but as it turns out, it may also be the key to nix picky eating.
In fact, according to a May 2020 study out of Northwestern University, kids who chose all of their snacks for the week ahead of time, instead of choosing one snack every day, picked a wider variety of options, including fruit.
HOW TO ADD VARIETY TO YOUR KID’S DIET
Between working from home, kids on distance learning, and everything else you’re trying to manage during this COVID-19 season, you’re stretched thin. With these easy tips, however, you can add variety to your kids’ diet and transform them into healthy, adventurous foodies.
SET ASIDE SNACKS FOR THE WEEK
According to the aforementioned study, when kids chose all of their snacks for the week at one time instead of choosing their snacks each day, they were more likely to choose a wider variety of foods.
At the beginning of the week, you can sit with your children and let them choose healthy snacks for the week.
Then, set aside the snacks in individual plastic bags or glass containers which will also save you time.
OFFER CHOICES AT MEAL TIMES
When kids are given choices about food, they’re more likely to feel in control and empowered to make healthy choices.
That’s not to say, however, that you should be a short-order cook because then you’re only giving in to what they want and keeps them in a pattern of eating the same foods every day.
You can, however, offer choices in other ways.
For example, try serving two types of green leafy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Or serve raw carrots and cooked carrots and let your kids decide which one—or both—they want.
TRY A MUFFIN TIN, BENTO BOX, OR TIERED BOWL
Offering choices is a good first step, but serving small portions is a non-intimidating way to encourage kids to try new foods.
Try putting out a muffin tin of snacks, serving lunch in a bento box, or a 3-tier bowl collapsable like this one.
MAKE SALADS TOGETHER
Serving up a salad is a great way to add variety to your kid’s diet.
With different types of fruits, vegetables, and sources of protein and healthy fats, it’s also a way to pack in a ton of nutrition and put an end to picky eating.
If you think your kid won’t eat salad, they may surprise you if you let them take the lead and choose the ingredients.
Having the right gear is key too. My kids love making a salad for the entire family with this wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna set.
Related: How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad
SERVE FAMILIAR FOODS ALONGSIDE NEW FOODS
Offering foods you know your kids like alongside new foods can improve the chances they’ll try it and increase the variety in their diets.
It may not happen on the first try but take heed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.
HEAD TO THE GROCERY STORE OR FARMERS’ MARKET
Bringing your kids to the grocery store is definitely more time consuming and stressful, and although they’re going to ask for every kid-friendly food you see, it can also be a great way to increase the variety of foods in their diets.
For example, when my kids come with me to the grocery store, I’ll often let them choose a new fruit or vegetable they haven’t had before.
This also works well if you bring your kids to the farmers’ market because you’ll often find new and different varieties of produce you can’t find in the grocery store.
Another great way to get more variety in your kid’s diet is to get in the kitchen.
Cooking with your kids encourages healthy eating, can prevent picky eating, and gives kids confidence.
Pick out a new recipe together and then get cooking.
HAVE A MAKE-YOUR-OWN DINNER
One of the best ways to get more variety in your kid’s diet is to have a make-your-own dinner night such as taco, pizza, or a Buddha bowl, for example.
Simply put out the ingredients and let your kids make their own dinners.
SET UP A DINNER BUFFET
My kids love when we have “buffet night,” which is just straight-up leftovers.
Buffet night makes your life easier, prevents food waste, and is another exposure that can encourage your kids to try new foods.
If your kids didn’t try that new dish you made on Monday, maybe they will on Friday when you serve it in the dinner buffet.
TRY NEW COOKING METHODS
Just because your kid doesn’t like broccoli cut up like ‘trees’ doesn’t mean he won’t eat it diced super-fine.
Try different types of cooking methods, a new type of oil, or serve foods in different ways.
For example, you can serve a new vegetable in a stir-fry or a risotto, or outside of the meal as an appetizer.
CALL FOR TAKE-OUT
Home-cooked meals will almost always provide more nutrition and have fewer calories, sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars, but trying new types of cuisines as a family is a great way to encourage kids to try new foods and add more variety into their diets.
Trying different cuisines can also introduce your family to new ways to cook and prepare vegetables and other foods.
UPGRADE FAMILIAR FOODS
Adding variety to your kid’s diet doesn’t have to be vegetables alone.
If your kid is used to eating rigatoni, try red lentil pasta.
Or try swapping your kid’s favorite foods for upgraded, homemade versions.
Try sweet potato fries instead of regular French fries, salmon fish sticks for the packaged variety, and cauliflower tots for tater tots—the possibilities are endless!