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How to Turn Fussy Eaters into Healthy Foodies

By Sandy Schroeder

Whatever their age, fussy eaters can drive you up the wall if you are the chef in the kitchen (often better known as Mom).  

Fussy eaters can be full-sized, perfectly great spouses, or equally great kids, who quickly learn how to shake their heads and make it known what they want.  Since you know them well, best advice may be to start with foods that your family loves. Just whittle away the bad stuff, and weave in the healthy. With a little luck, and a lot of love, you may lure them into some memorable meals that are also very healthy.

Start with tastebuds -  Link them to healthy choices.  Consider hot or spicy hummus, tangy eggplant dips, freshly grilled salmon or white fish, veggie lasagna, black bean soup or tacos. Add healthy sweetness with creamy Greek yogurt and berry smoothies, or pear tarts swimming in dark chocolate sauce. Check sites like to find recipes for healthy foods that they like.

Make eating special – When you sit down with your kids for dinner, enjoy your food and take time to relax and talk. On weekends, invite friends and savor the meal.

Mix in healthy stuff – Whatever you are cooking, improve it. Try grating carrots into soups, sauces, meatloaf and chili, mixing sweet potato chunks into black bean dips or soups, or using oats as a base for breads, pancakes and cookies.

Keep holidays healthy – For summer celebrations, hit your local produce center and let everybody pick favorites, such as watermelon, apples, berries, grapes and corn on the cob. Thanksgiving was our special holiday when the kids were young.  We spent the day roasting a turkey with homemade stuffing. There were lots of vegetables and baked apple tarts too. My oldest still uses the same stuffing recipe for dinner at his house.

Don’t be a short-order cook – Sometimes it is too easy to get into a kid food routine where fish sticks, wieners, or macaroni and cheese become easy solutions. Instead, cook one meal for everyone. Start with healthy chicken, fish or lean beef choices that you know your family likes. Add salad, several veggie choices, and healthy fruits for dessert. 

Never make eating negative – The push to clean your plate, or always eat all of your veggies, can take a lot of joy out of the meal and add a big helping of tension. Instead, hold snacking down so everyone arrives hungry and offer lots of choices. If kids just nibble, have a healthy snack available later.

Over time your efforts may be rewarded with many happy memories lingering as you share good food and great conversation. Whatever happens, relax. They will be back tomorrow and you will have another shot at it.

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