Breaking Picky Eaters: Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites

The following post is from Aimée of Simple Bites and is the third guest post in the Breaking Picky Eaters series. We’ll start to look at different reasons why a child might be picky and solutions and methods to try with your “particular eaters” at home based on what has worked for all of us, what hasn’t worked and what might work for you later this week.

I am no stranger to the fussy eater. If I looked back and evaluated my journey as a mom so far, coping with my two picky children would probably top my list as the single most frustrating aspect of parenting.

My first, personal blog was born out of a desperate attempt to connect with other moms after seeing my lovingly prepared meals continually flipped off the side of the high chair. A foodie, or ‘gourmande’ as we say here in Quebec, myself, I always assumed my children would eat everything – as long as I introduced a wide variety of foods to their young palates early enough. Right? Right? Wrong.

It has now been five years since that first spoonful of solids was obstinately pushed out of my firstborn’s mouth. Things are better. Much better. My eldest now eats meat, green vegetables, and many fruits. Yes, cheese is still limited to one variety (marble cheddar, SVP), berries are disdained, and orange vegetables are pushed aside, but he eats a myriad of ingredients most kids his age won’t touch. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are all popular, served up in burritos, soups and curries. Fish disappears faster than the side of home fries, and cooked cereals are gobbled up every morning.

As I look back on the headway we have made over the years, I’m happy to report that as slow as it was, progress was made. Perhaps that is the encouragement you need to hear today.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. They didn’t solve all my problems, that’s for sure, but made for smoother meal times and helped ensure my kids were getting the nutrients they needed.

  1. Go big for breakfast
    Serving up a well rounded, hearty breakfast will help replenish low energy reserves, especial if supper was minimal the night before. Try and include whole grains, fruit and dairy. If your child isn’t big on breakfast, be sure to serve up a solid mid-morning snack.

  2. Allow healthy grazing
    Keep healthy snacks around for quick handouts, but don’t allow them to snack close to meals. The only exception here is if I know that dinner is not one of their favorites, I’ll pass out carrot and celery sticks for snacking in the late afternoon.

  3. Get kids in the kitchen
    Get kids involved with meal planning, meal preparation, shopping, growing of vegetables, and preparing healthy snacks. Be sure to invite them to pull up a chair next to you when you’re cooking dinner and let them taste and nibble during the prep time and encourage them to try new things.

    As parents, we have a responsibility to make eating about more than just loading up our forks. Take the time to make the gathering and preparing of food, as well as sitting down together around the dinner table, fundamental to eating.

  4. Choose the best ingredients for the food your kids DO love.
    Is your preschooler on a P.B & J kick? Then provide him with organic whole grain bread, all-natural peanut butter and sugar-free jam. You may not be able to control his likes and dislikes, but you can ensure the food he does consume is whole, natural and the very best for him.

  5. Relax and have fun
    Over the course of a week most kids eat a fairly balanced diet (if you offer them one). Don’t sweat it if one day there is no progress on the meat or milk front. Tomorrow they’ll eat a bowl of yogurt, nibble down a few meatballs and carrot sticks and it will be fine. Don’t sweat every meal.

Bottom line: The fact that you are still reading this post is a good sign, because it shows you care. Hang in there. Things do get better.

Aimée Wimbush-Bourque is the editor of Simple Bites, part of the Simple Living Media Network, which dishes up real food for the family table. Cooking has always been her preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation, and growing up with a “real food” upbringing shaped that passion. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop. She is mother to two children and wife to Danny.

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  1. Great Post. The “Relax” tip is definitely the one I have to remember most because no matter how often I think I’ve figured out my son’s crazy eating habits, a new one emerges. Knowing that your child will eat when he/she is hungry is key – if they barely eat one day, they’ll usually make up for it the next. Thanks!

    • I still remind myself daily to relax.Now I give even more praise on days that the school lunch comes back minus the carrot sticks, and try to bit my tongue when they are untouched.

  2. Aimee, I love your point about getting kids involved in the kitchen – that dinner is more than about loading up our forks. It’s one of the best ways to create healthy attitudes about food!

  3. Aimee, your family is just adorable!!

    LOVE these tips…my son is a VERY picky eater (so is his dad) and as someone who spends an obscene amount of time in the kitchen, it get’s very discouraging. I’m glad to know I’m not alone!!

  4. Awesome tips Aimee… you really cant go wrong if you follow them!

  5. This is awesome. My oldest is a picky eater and my little one just follows whatever the oldest does. I really like the idea of a big breakfast as dinner is often the meal that doesn’t get eaten!

    • LaToya, my 2yo is the same way and it drives me nuts, but is understandable. When dinner is served, he looks at his older brother for his reaction even before he looks at his own plate.
      Hence, we’re working on teaching our 5yo appropriate comments! 🙂

  6. you know what interests me more than dealing with my son because for the most part I know everything is just a phase and every few days he’ll binge on brocolli or yogurt or something else that makes my “you want mac n cheese again?” dismay be relieved…how do you deal with extended family or others commenting? I’m living with family right now so its bad…but they won’t stop making comments about how he won’t eat more variety. he’s eating that again? why don’t you force him to eat something different? if you sneak it in, he’ll eat it.

    The thing is when I do get my son to try something different, he’ll often say that is good and eat it. but I don’t feel like having to explain that to anyone. nor do I feel like sneaking food in is a good thing for my relationship with my son. I like to be upfront and honest as I anticipate he will be with me. so…any tips on that?

    • I am so glad that you pointed out that sneaking ingredients into your son’s food is good for your relationship. I think that a lot of people forget that as adults, we are the ones responsible for making the food choices (that gives us a LOT of power), but we can easily blow it if we betray our children’s trust…And if we cook together, they can see the “secret powerful ingredient” that makes it taste good and make our bodies grow… That’s fun too!

    • Ah, the million dollar question. Whether well-meaning or not, family will *always* comment.

      I try to smile and nod for as long as I can, then I just nod. Then I politely acknowledge that I have heard them (the first time), thank them for their concern etc, and remind them that I am his mother. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

      Hang in there, Nina!

  7. to add on…yes I don’t have a “this is breakfast, this is dinner food” mindset where most people do. my son wanted cereal for dinner the other night…okay, great. whole grains, low or no sugar and milk. works for me. he wanted mac n cheese for breakfast today…ok. but others get so bugged by that…I guess part of me is still trying to figure out how not to care what they think because I know this works for us. but sometimes I’d like a good come back, ya know?

  8. I love that you used the term “Selective Eater” over on Simple Bites. Maybe my kids aren’t picky… just selective. =)

    This tips are fantastic – big breakfast, best possible ingredients for what they DO eat, etc. I’ve also noticed things have gotten better since I’ve been able to take my own emotion out of it. I constantly remind myself: “Rejecting the food is not rejecting the one who prepared it!”

    Both my selective eaters are also low weight. The toddler eats better if we don’t pay much attention and then we’re boosting him with protein shakes. The three year old gets straight bribery – eat a good dinner, get a treat. We try to make the “treat” something healthier (handful of pistachios, frozen yogurt, small cookie), so then he’s getting both the calories from dinner and the calories from the after dinner snack. It is an ongoing saga, isn’t it?

  9. I really love this series. I keep thinking of it as “How to Break your Picky Eater” without losing your cool! I have three kids, and my youngest has been the one who continually challenges the parenting wisdom I gained with my first two. She’s the most picky one, about everything really, but it’s most pronounced at the table. Our good news is that after several years of patiently offering the family meal to her, ignoring her protestations, and letting her pick around it, she is finally opening up and eating more of what’s offered. My older kids are foodies who eat everything and it wasn’t feasible or desired to cater to her. Once she agrees to eat a previously shunned food, my husband always jokes “It must be the 11th time!”.

  10. Awesome tips! I absolutely agree with them. Breakfast is normally our most successful meal as far as variety and health goes, and I’m a big fan of capitalizing on something they already like. I also think Alissa had a great point too. Once I stopped taking it personally, our relationship with each other and food got much better 🙂

  11. Unfortunately Logan has never been a big breakfast eater, but we definitely make the recipes he will eat as healthy as possible. I’ve recently been using fresh ground whole wheat flour in a lot of our recipes. I do need to remember to relax more. That’s the hard part for me.

  12. Thanks – nice to know that no matter how much effort we put into making food enticing, pretty, healthy and fun, she’ll eat what she wants to eat…and won’t eat if she can find something better to do. I keep telling myself, “she won’t starve herself, she won’t starve herself”. Hot cereal has been my saving grace for over a year.

  13. These are great tips! I’ve learned to just keep offering healthy options and eventually my daughter will eat them. Relax and have fun is especially important!

  14. Great tips. I have a house full of picky eaters. It’s been a hard journey, but we are slowly turning things around. Relaxing is key!

  15. Thanks Aimee! I sometimes do stray away from the relaxing part. Ha ha, my son is finicky about his cheese too! Must be Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, I bought a different kind last grocery run and he snubs his nose at it. I thought I could fool him!

  16. Such great tips, Aimee! I am lucky that my kids eat just about everything…. they have picky moments but nothing too terrible to deal with.

  17. Thanks for sharing these really helpful tips, Aimee. My 4 year old can be pretty choosy, doesn’t eat much when she does eat, and therefore struggles with being underweight. We encourage grazing for her throughout the day and make sure that they’re full of healthy nutrition and fat – apples with almond butter, string cheese and whole grain crackers, yogurt with granola, chips with guacamole, or carrots with hummus are some of her favorites.

    This is really her personality so we roll with it – as frustrating as it can sometimes be. She’s healthy and thriving so I can’t complain.

  18. Great tip about getting kids involved with meal planning and meal preparation. I think that must help get them interested in what they are eating.

  19. Great tips! We did a survey over at Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen of over 600 moms, and asked them the #1 obstacle to getting their children to eat healthy meals. “Picky eaters who whine and complain” was the top response (51%) followed by “lack of time.” It is a huge challenge for so many moms so any tips we can share. Getting kids involved in the food prep and keeping healthy snacks easily accessible helps. Not making a huge deal over what your kids choose to eat is also important, but oh so hard!

  20. Great tips! I have one son that eats everything I make he loves to try food and sometimes I have to remind him to slow down on the eating. Then there’s my “selective” four year old, what has worked for us the past year in getting him to eat more or to try new foods is to help in the meal planning and meal preparation. I love taking him to Trader Joe’s, he grabs his own little cart and I tell him to put the foods he wants to help mommy make for dinner. I was surprised at the healthy choices he put in his cart, he did throw some cookies in there but they too can be a part of a healthy diet.
    The best tip “relax and have fun” the last thing you want to do is give your child negative feelings about food because it can carry on with them into their adult years.

  21. Love the tips….and what a sweet family!!! 🙂

  22. Thanks for the thoughts Aimee. Do you have any breakfast suggestions if we are going gluten free? I’m at a loss and feel like breakfast is getting skimpy without Oatmeal.

  23. Again, practical, thoughful, logical and possible advice!
    Excellent guest post. This is incredible stuff!:)

  24. My son is 3 & 1/2 and won’t eat anything other than beans (black or baked) hummus, crackers, cereal bars, bread with Peanut Butter, yogurt & milk/juice/water. oh and organic/added fish oil chicken nuggets.
    The pediatrician says to not worry about it & give him a gummy vitamin and he’ll be ok- it’s probably a texture thing. But I’ve tried every which way of cooking, not cooking, puree-ing, cutting and putting in sauce for the veggies & fruits and he. wont. touch. them. won’t even bite. I’m worried. I can’t say “eat this bc it’s all that’s offered” because at some point it becomes bed time and he’s already a HORRIBLE sleeper and if he didn’t eat anything that day (because we refused to give something different until he ate one bite of a new food) then NO ONE gets any sleep. It’s tiring, stressful & makes me feel like a failure of a mom. He used to eat everything put in front of him until he was a 18 months old. I’m at a loss.

    • Kristi,
      we went through this as well. Texture is an intolerable issue for some kids. I don’t think there is much you can do about it. Mine still does not eat fruit, but will eat any kind of meat, a wide range of fibrous green vegetables, and carrots too. I give him prune juice. Also, he loves grains, so I use a wide variety – quinoa, middle-eastern style couscouse, pasta. He likes fish. I just keep adding things he will tolerate, and then once in a while offer the other stuff. DO NOT FEEL LIKE A FAILURE!! If you are trying, you are awesome!

  25. Thanks for the encouraging words! I like your tip on making the most out of breakfast because that always seems like the time my daughter eats the most. Also…what are your thoughts on letting them eat the same meal over and over…she had been on a PB & Banana sandwich kick for weeks now. 🙂

  26. I love the tips! I have a selective eater, he eats things many 6 year olds would never dream of, eats many vegetables, but won’t touch fruit. He will some day, and I make sure he gets fiber and anti-oxidants from other sources.
    One thing I’ve learned that doesn’t work: threats, punishments, frustration…
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  27. I have a VERY picky 3 year old. Im really trying to make dinner the one meal we all eat the same thing, with reasonable expectations of course. I never thought I would be this mom but I never could have expected the battle, my daughter will only eat a grilled cheese, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets and peas, at least there is one veggie! My biggest problem is when I do try to get her to eat what we are having which is only a few times a week, she usually doesn’t eat and wakes up a total monster. If she doesn’t eat dinner should i give her a snack before bed or is this reinforcing that she doesn’t need to eat whats for dinner because she can snack later. Also, any recomendations for family friendly recipie websites? Thanks!

  28. Thanks for the great recommendations. Try, try again and trying not to make life miserable for anyone (including me!).

    I found this website to be very helpful. My daughter was not growing well because her food choices were so limited. The website helped me figure out what to ask my doctor and then how to find a good feeding therapist.

  29. I am new to Simple Bites and am loving it so far. I happened on this post b/c I have 2 picky eaters who are slowly getting better. My BIGGEST issue, however, is my VERY SELECTIVE husband!!! What do you do if your husband is the pickiest person you’ve ever met in your life?? He totally has the taste buds of a toddler!! He wants our girls to not be as picky as him but it’s hard to get them to eat stuff they see he won’t. It makes grocery shopping expensive and meal planning frustrating. I’m not picky and would love to try all sorts of new recipes. And since I have the rule with my girls that they eat whatever is for dinner or they go hungry, I figured that eventually they would start eating the new and different things I made for dinner. My husband makes this very hard and I get tired of eating the same food all the time.

    He won’t eat anything mixed together ( a.k.a soups, stews, casseroles etc) Won’t eat most veggies or fruits, no onions,olives,mushrooms, peppers-that kind of thing, no beans or lentils of any kind, no fruit based pancakes (only plain or chocolate chip) and refuses most sauces. He is a meat, potatoes and hamburger kind of guy. He’ll eat broccoli, carrots and green beans. The only fruits he’ll eat are apples and oranges. Not even strawberries and blueberries-which are delicious!!

    Every now and then he’ll try something new I’ve made and he’ll either say he doesn’t like it or shrug and say ” It’s not my favorite”. Then I have a large batch of something that only I will eat. When he sees how frustrated I get he’ll ask what exactly I want him to do if he doesn’t LIKE a food. I tell him “Well, you make yourself eat it anyway!!! Especially if it’s good for you!! Eventually you’ll develop a taste for it!!!” Grrr…..

    Anyway, I guess I just wanted to share MY selective eater story. Not sure anyone will really have any advice on how to get a 35 year old grown man to not be so picky!! LOL

  30. Wish I had seen this post sooner – thanks so much for the insight! As a feeding therapist, I not only work with kids who have medical issues that impact eating, about 50% of my caseload are garden variety picky eaters. I would love to send Aimee a review copy of my children’s CD entitled Dancing in the Kitchen! It’s filled to the brim with songs that celebrate being an adventurous eater. Please feel free to email me at and I will be happy to send it to Aimee. Thank you!

  31. These are very helpful as my kid is also a super picky eater. I always figured I could kinda force them to have my taste buds.. but I realize I was like that as a kid too.


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