Stacey Loscalzo

Nov 21

Picky Eater? Try These Out of the Book Ideas

by Stacey

The plate you see above was Katherine’s during Thanksgiving dinner last year. She was at her most picky and literally ate only bread. And only the middle of that bread.

As I thought ahead to our meal this year with hopes of a broader menu for Katherine, I was reminded of a piece I wrote about using reading to help picky eaters. I haven’t tried many of these tricks in quite awhile. Seems like it might be a good time to practice what I preach.

My piece (and a food themed book list) follows:

Picky Eater? Try These Out of the Book Ideas

 If you have a picky eater, you’ve tried all the tricks. You’ve pureed spinach into your brownies.  You’ve topped your pancakes with blueberry and strawberry smiley faces. You’ve come up with cute names like Bobby Broccoli and Katie Cauliflower. And your picky eater is still picky.

When my girls were young, I read aloud all the time. I read during breakfast, while playing with blocks, over a snack and before naps. Perhaps because the girls weren’t yet great conversationalists, reading was way to start a conversation or to keep one going. While always fun, I also learned that reading could be helpful at times. Both of my girls would have rather played than sat still for a meal. When I read, though, the story held their attention and their place at the table.

Your answer to a more developed palate may just be found in the aisles of the library and not the grocery store. If your eldest eats only white foods and your youngest prefers only cheese, read on for some out of the box (or in this case, out of the book) ideas.

Read, then run: For young children, running and jumping may be more fun than chewing and swallowing. If you can capture a child’s attention as they sit at the table, they will eat more bites before the joy of movement takes them out of their seat. By placing a basket of books at the kitchen table and rotating the selection frequently, you will succeed in holding a child’s attention.

Leave them hanging: Snack and meal times are great opportunities to introduce chapter books to young listeners. Right when you get to a juicy part, stop reading. Promise that you will read again at the next snack or meal. Children will be so excited to hear about the solution to their favorite character’s problems, they may not notice that they are trying a new vegetable or an often rejected side dish.

Learn about a culture: Fill your basket with books about one culture. And then, present foods from that culture as you read. How about books set in Italy as you introduce a new meatball recipe? Or a book with a Korean main character as you enjoy home made Bi Bim Bop? As children are surrounded by different words, colorful landscapes and interesting traditions through books, a new food may be just the perfect partner.

Choose a recipe: Placing cooking magazines in your basket is another way to encourage creative eating and reading at the same time. Not all reading must be done in books. For many children, the joy of looking through a magazine will engage them in a way that books don’t.  While you sit and eat a meal with your child, flip through the pages of a magazine, commenting on delicious recipes. Give your child a chance to look with you or if they are old enough, to leaf through their own magazine. When they find a yummy looking recipe, mark the page and plan to create the recipe with or for your child.

Write a Cumulative Story: Keep a blank book in your basket or even a few sheets of blank paper stapled together. Each time you sit down for a meal or a snack, ask your child to dictate part of a story. Add on and on until the story feels complete. Over the course of a week, you’ll be amazed to see creativity grow. And with this creativity comes more focused time at the table. With this time, more and more new foods can be introduced as your picky eater turns into a more adventurous eater and writer.

Food Themed Book List

Little Pea- Amy Krouse Rosenthal

LMNOP- Keith Baker

The Incredible Book Eating Boy- Oliver Jeffers

Dragons Love Tacos- Adam Rubin

Orange Pear Apple Bear- Emily Gravett

The Duckling Gets a Cookie- Mo Willems

Clever Jack Takes the Cake- Candace Fleming

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie- Julie Sternberg

Rah! Rah! Radishes: A Vegetable Chant- April Pulley Sayre

Bee Bim Bop- Linda Sue Park

Yummy Yukcy- Leslie Patricelli

ABC Apple Pie- Alison Murray

How Many Jelly Bean- Alison Menotti

Lemons Are Not Read- Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Creepy Carrots- Aaron Reynolds





  1. Zoe says:

    I have a picky eater like this – she won’t eat ANYTHING that is part of Christmas dinner. Books certainly play a part in our mealtimes as an attempt to get somthing in…

  2. Well our picky eater did eat a tad more than that, although he threw a fit when I put dark meat on his plate instead of just white meat. Yes, he’s five and thinks white meat tastes better. I think he just prefers bland things! But books are a big part of introducing new foods to my kids, too. Sometimes I’ll make a food we’ve read about in one of their books. I also use a book I created to help my picky eater remember what foods he’s actually tried and liked, because often his pickiness is really forgetfulness. The book is called “My Food Notebook” and you can check it out at my bookstore

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