Parenting: Inviting Picky Eaters to God's table

It is a battle, to be sure. The colors of candy and the sweetness of snacks call to our kids day and night. Taste buds engaged, they beg for these items. As parents, we draw a line and stand as firm as we can against the constant intake of chemically enhanced foods. But we find ourselves at odds with a world that offers fast food and fat-laden treats for cheap on every corner. What are we to do?

We know our children need a variety of fruits and vegetables and use these items as ammunition in the power struggle in which we find ourselves embroiled. We say no to the candy and yes to the carrots. They say no to the carrots and yes to the cookies. We say no to the soda and yes to the salad. They say no to the salad and yes to the Sweet-Tarts. On and on we go!

What would happen if we gave up the fight?

A while ago, weary of fighting, I made a plan to permanently end this war. Here are the ideas we tried:

  1. Stop buying the foods you do not want your child to eat. It may feel like there is nothing to replace these snacks, but this is not true. Buying fruit whole and cutting it to keep it on hand is often far less expensive that prepackaged snacks. There are organic and natural snacks that can replace granola bars and fruit snacks, as well. Choose carefully and only purchase those things that you want your family to eat.
  2. Place cut up veggies and fruits out for children to snack on. Though we think this may not work, in our experience, hungry kids will eat what is readily available to them. Make toothpicks available to older kids to use as silverware and stand back to watch. When we place these snacks out and say nothing of them, the battle fades away and kids will eat what we offer. Try a variety of colors and textures, fruits, vegetables, nuts.
  3. Plant a garden and require your children to help. If room is a concern, plant vegetables in pots. As we expanded the types of food we grew, our children expanded their palates. They watched seedlings bloom and blossoms turn to fruit. They cared for the plants and earth. Our table soon overflowed with a variety of food that was new to all of us. And they ate it. Even my pickiest eater. In fact, by mid-summer, instead of running inside when they were hungry, my children began to run to our garden instead. Surrounded by the gifts of creation, they ate grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas right off the vine each day. And I never had to say a word.

Somewhere inside our children is a desire to connect with creation. We may have to look for it. We may have to help them find it. But it is there. We were created by the same God who dreamed up spaghetti squash and cucumbers and watermelon and gourds. Our bodies are healthier when we rely upon food in a natural state because these are the very foods we were created to eat. It was a gift given to Adam and Eve and that gift continues today.

We need to find simple ways to end the fight, and instead engage our children in appreciating these wonders of creation. Once they connect to the goodness of it all, the artificial flavors and colors will begin to lose their sheen. And then the sweets and chips will become treats for an occasional indulgence instead of everyday staples.

In our home, we have raised the white flag. Instead of drawing battle lines over healthy choices, we sit side by side in the garden and plant things we cannot wait to eat. We peruse farmers’ markets together, each choosing something we will enjoy together. And we see anew the wonder of God’s blessings in bright red fruit and sweet clusters of juicy grapes and long, crisp beans to enjoy.

We remember that it is good just as God designed it.

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at

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