Health, Food & Nutrition

9 Nutrition Tricks for Picky Eaters

Children with ADHD or sensory issues often turn up their noses at new, healthy foods. Learn how to get your chicken-nuggets-or-nothing picky eater the nutrition she needs.

ADHD girl is a picky eater
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Mealtime Battles

Most children initially turn up their noses at new, healthy foods—and children with ADHD are no exception. In fact, sensory issues or ODD can make our kids even pickier than average. If your child is taking medication on top of a finicky palate, it can suppress her appetite even further—making it tough for her to get the nutrients she needs. If you have a picky eater on your hands, try these tips to keep your child well fed, happy, and healthy—without fights.

Faces on pizza are a good snack for kids with ADHD
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Make Food Fun

For younger children especially, presentation can really impact whether a food gets eaten. Cut food into funny shapes using cookie cutters, or take a few seconds to make a fruit happy face on top of his pancakes. Serve veggies with an assortment of tasty dips, so your child can take his pick and feel in control of the meal. Check out some fun and easy food ideas for kids here.

Girl with ADHD isn't hungry
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Respect Your Child’s Appetite

If your child isn’t hungry at dinnertime but is ravenous at 8:00 p.m., don’t pick a fight. Have healthy, filling food available when she wants it—even if it doesn’t fit into your family’s schedule.

[Free Download: 5 Rules for an ADHD-Friendly Diet]

Smoothies are a great source of nutrition for ADHD kids
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Hide Nutrition Anywhere You Can

Some children with ADHD are such picky eaters, they won’t even look at anything green. Parents have to be creative and sneak veggies into the foods they will eat. If your child loves fruit, whip up a healthy smoothie with berries and low-fat yogurt—and throw spinach into the blender. She won’t even know it’s there! Try this recipe to get you started.

Family dinner time with ADHD daughter distracted
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Cut Down on Distractions

Young children—especially those with ADHD—can get distracted during mealtimes. Make it a household rule that you turn off the TV and other devices while the family eats. This stops your child from being overstimulated, and lets her focus more on cleaning her plate.

Mother and son with ADHD at picnic
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Set a Good Example

Children often mimic their parents—especially when it comes to eating habits. If you only eat fast food but encourage him to eat his vegetables, he’ll smell something fishy—and may be more likely to refuse “healthy” foods. Practice what you preach, and eat the way you’d like your child to eat.

Father and daughter with ADHD shop for groceries
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Get Them Involved

Kids are more interested in food when they can take part in it. Bring your child along with you to the grocery store or farmers market, and have him pick out whatever fruits and vegetables he wants. Then, work together to come up with a recipe and cook a meal for the family. Sure, he may make a bit of mess, but he’ll be excited to serve—and eat—the meal he helped make.

[ADDitude Asked: Outsmarting a Picky Eater]

Spoons with vitamins for ADHD kids
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Give a Multivitamin

If you’re still worried your child isn’t getting the nutrition he needs, try adding a multivitamin to her daily diet. Kids' vitamins come in chewable, gummy, and even milkshake varieties, like PediaSure—with so many options, you’re bound to find one your child likes.

Girl with ADHD likes broccoli
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Keep Trying

There’s an old saying that it takes 10 exposures before a picky eater will start to like a new food. So keep offering them healthy alternatives and encourage them to take at least one bite each time. If they hate it, don't force them to eat any more—but serve it again a few months later. You may find that the third time is the charm—or the fourth, or the ninth.

Mom talks to doctor about ADHD daughter
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Sensory Processing Disorder

If your child has sensory processing issues, she may be having difficulty with more than just the taste of the food. If you’ve tried everything and feel like you’re at the end of your rope, it may be time to look into Sensory Processing Disorder. Ask your pediatrician about occupational therapists or nutritionists that may be able to help your child overcome food issues.

[Got a Picky Eater on Your Hands? Here’s How to Cope]

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