How to Help Picky Eaters Get the Nutrients They Need

Updated: February 12, 2020
America’s Nutrition Expert and RD Mitzi Dulan is sharing her top tips for helping kids get the proper nutrients to help them grow.
picky eater little kid

Whether your kiddos are budding foodies or the stingiest pickers, they still need help getting the nutrients they need to help them grow, boost their immune system and promote overall wellness. However, getting kids used to eating the vegetables, fruits and foods that contain important nutrients like Vitamin C, protein and antioxidants is no easy feat. Here are some top tips that I use within my own family to help parents instill healthy eating habits in their little ones that will ultimately lead to a healthier style in the long run. 

More: Are Gluten-Free Diets Safe for Kids?

Model good eating behaviors

Good eating habits start with adults in the home. Children like to imitate those older than them, so when they see trusted adults choosing fruits and vegetables, they are much more likely to reach for the same foods. Be a good example for your little ones by choosing single ingredient, natural foods like watermelon and strawberries when grocery shopping, servings snacks and preparing meals. 

Make grocery shopping an educational experience for little ones

Get picky-eaters actively involved in grocery shopping to give them a sense of ownership over what they eat. When at the store, allow your little ones to pick out five items to help fuel their bodies for both school and sports. Ideally, these items will include a vegetable like carrots, a fruit like grapes or berries, a source of protein like string cheese and a drink. Just be sure the drink isn’t packed with added sugars. My pick is Juicy Juice Fruitifuls Organic which contains 45% less sugar than the leading juice. Then, the fifth pick can be completely up to them – within reason of course! 

Be patient with the process

Most children will not love sweet potatoes on their first or even fifth try. It can sometimes take between 10 and 20 times of trying a new food before kids learn to enjoy it. My advice is to keep working at it! Start with little victories. When encouraging little ones to try something new, let them know that they only need one bite—and that this food will fuel them to do well in school and their favorite activities. I also instated a “No Yuck” rule with my kids. The rule is that children can politely say “no, thank you” if they taste a food that they didn’t love, but they cannot make faces or complain. 

Do not become a short order cook for the picky-eater

Since it’s important for little ones to get a proper meal, many parents are tempted to make multiple meals to ensure everyone is getting their fill. But becoming a short order cook can make the problem even worse in the long run. The sooner you avoid this the better. The kids should always get the same meals as adults. This ties back to taking your kids grocery shopping with you so they can have some input in the foods served at mealtime. Plus, while cooking, it helps to talk about how their picks are being used as part of the meal. Before long, they’ll be reaching for the broccoli instead of pushing it away!

Thinking about a vegan diet and lifestyle for your kids? Find out if it's the right choice for you.

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As America’s Nutrition Expert®, Mitzi is a nationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert who has inspired millions to get fit, being named one of the “Top 20 Nutrition Experts to Follow on Twitter” by The Huffington Post. She is an author, influencer (with over 3.3 million Pinterest followers) and sought after trusted source of information.

Mitzi co-authored The All-Pro Diet: Lose Fat, Build Muscle, and Live Like a Champion with NFL future Hall-of-Famer, Tony Gonzalez. She was the team sports nutritionist for the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals for 11 seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs for over 8 seasons, and for the Golden State Warriors. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and two daughters.