A woman holds a piece of broccoli and shows it it a little girl.
A reasonable variety of choices at mealtime could work wonders on your child’s reluctance to eat. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Parents of finicky kids know how mealtime can turn into a daily battle.

From radishes to raspberries, some kids are all too resistant to eating fruits and vegetables.

Tasty twists

Sometimes presenting a fruit or vegetable in an unexpected way can help kids get used to their flavors.

Just enter the ideas below in a search engine for recipes, or try searching recipes for whatever produce you have on hand. Some ideas to try with your family:

  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Zucchini pancakes
  • Fruit salsa
  • Sweet potato chili
  • Banana ice cream

But the good news is you don’t have to engage in food warfare with your children—there are ways to ease the tension. You should also keep in mind that pressuring kids to eat is a surefire way to deepen their aversion to fruits and vegetables.

One way to relieve the tension at the table: Follow the division of responsibility in feeding guidelines, a feeding dynamics model developed and tested by Ellyn Satter, RD. This method teaches each family member to tend to their respective “jobs” during mealtime.

Parents or other caregivers, for instance, can decide what foods to offer, and when and where.

Children can decide what to eat from the foods offered. They can also decide not to eat, although they need to know the outcome of this decision beforehand.

For example: As a parent, you may decide that dinner will be roasted chicken, brown rice pilaf and steamed broccoli with cheese. Dinner is served at a set time and at the table to minimize distractions.

Your child may decide to eat just the rice and a few bites of chicken. That’s OK. Your child may also decide he does not want to eat anything you have presented for dinner. That’s OK, too.

But your little one must understand he is not allowed to choose something else that is not on the table, and he should be reminded of the next meal or snack time.

Children will often skip dinner only to ask for a snack 30 minutes later. This highlights the importance of the “when” in the division of responsibility in eating. If your child knows the next meal isn’t until breakfast tomorrow, he may be more motivated to eat what is served.

Satter recommends establishing a family-friendly mealtime where familiar foods are paired with unfamiliar and liked foods are presented alongside not-yet-liked foods. This way, your child has at least one food he’s comfortable eating.

It can take a long time for a child’s flavor preferences to evolve, but if you present food in a loving and no-pressure way, you can trust that most children will grow to like a wide variety of healthy foods.

Following the division of responsibility in feeding allows for you to finally call a truce at family meal times.