Convert Picky Eaters Over Time With The ‘Three Rs’

Convert Picky Eaters Over Time With The ‘Three Rs’

Cooking for picky eaters can be frustrating, but a recent study suggests three simple things that can convert the pickiest of eaters over time. Photo by David D.

The study, conducted by researchers Clare E. Holley, Emma Haycraft, and Claire Farrow, and published in Appetite, suggests you can transform picky eaters as long as you have enough time and persistence. It all comes down to the “Three Rs”:

  1. Repetition
  2. Role modelling
  3. Rewards

Essentially, you need to offer the particular food they don’t want to eat at different meals (so it becomes commonplace and not some strange exotic item), show that you enjoy eating the food, and give them praise for trying it. If your goal is to get someone to eat healthier, you don’t want to reward them with sweets or junk food, but a little encouragement in the form of kind words can still go a long way. Over time, the Three Rs will break down their mental barriers. They may not decide they love the food, but they will get to a point where they will eat it without complaining.

‘Why don’t you try it again?’ A comparison of parent led, home based interventions aimed at increasing children’s consumption of a disliked vegetable [the journal Appetite via The Kitchn]


  • I have a mild allergy to vegetable seeds that makes me nauseous if I eat them. I get ribald all the time by people who do not know me well who assume I just don’t like eating healthily. It’s not that I don’t like greens, it’s because it makes me ill.

    I know it’s not common, but just forcing the wrong foods on people is not always the answer. I know that is not the point of the article, but I just need to make this side comment anyway.

    • I sympathise with your problem, but I think most people probably refuse healthy food because they’d rather crap. Kids actually might have a better excuse because I believe young palates are more sensitive to bitter flavours many veges have that adult no longer notice because they aren’t as sensitive to them.

    • I think you meant “ribbed” all the time.

      Ribald: referring to sexual matters in an amusingly rude or irreverent way.

  • When my two kids ( Leanne aged 5 & Keith aged 7 ) act up and get fussy with their food. and refuse to eat..
    I pick up the phone and tell them I’m sending them to Orphanage where the Priest who touches little kids lives…suddenly they scoff down their Coles Frozen Broccoli like biafrites at a buffet. – winning –

  • It’s also worth having a talk with kids about what it is that they don’t like about a food. A dislike of carrots may turn into love if they just don’t like them all squishy when they’re cooked. Texture can play as much of a role as taste in food appreciation.

    There’s also allergies, sensitivities, and a host of other things that can make a child refuse to eat something. Sure, kids are probably going to overstate their reasons for disliking something, but finding out if they’ve got any specific reasoning for not liking something can help you work out whether it’s worth trying to push or bribe or encourage them into eating something.

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