Is Your Vegan Kid a Picky Eater? (10 Key Strategies)

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Do you have a vegan kid who seems picky with food?

If you said ‘yes,’ you’re not alone. While many kids go through a phase of picky eating, there are several strategies and resources that may help.

I discussed this topic with with Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, LD – a leading vegan pediatric nutrition specialist.

Karla and I are both vegan identifying dietitians, with kids who have gone through their own experiences of picky eating.

Listen in or keep reading for insights about feeding your vegan picky eater!

title reads: is your vegan kid a picky eater? 10 key strategies with karla moreno-bryce a leading vegan pediatric nutrition specialist. there are pictures of Christine and Karla in the photo. In the background are Christine's kids pretending to feed a doll.

Disclaimer: This article and podcast episode is only providing information and is not personalized dietary advice. It is not a substitute for medical or dietary advice. Talk to your doctor about any health or dietary concerns and questions. See our Disclaimers for more details.

What’s Picky Eating Anyways?

‘Picky eating’ does not have a set definition, and can be described in a variety of ways and extremes.

One common theme you may see in picky eating is selective eating. Because of this selectivity, trying new foods, or eating a variety of foods can be difficult.

While studies suggest a wide range of ages, some research suggests a peak age for picky eating may be around of 3 years old. It’s not uncommon for it to start around 2 to 6 years old and beyond(1).

While there is no specific cause for all instances, since a phase of picky eating commonly occurs in pre-school aged children, it has been theorized that that the ‘newness’ of food can make kids fearful of them.

That, coupled with a variety of other factors, such as early feeding difficulties, or pressure from parents might influence picky eating.

By the way, picky eating is not just a problem for vegan kids. Any kid could have picky eating(2)!

Finally, it can be difficult for picky eaters to meet their calorie and nutrient needs. So it can’t be stressed enough that you should get help from an appropriate licensed practitioner if you have concerns.

Picky eating could be a sign of something else. As an example, gastrointestinal issues, and poor oral motor skills could cause low appetite, but look like picky eating.

10 Key Strategies for Vegan Picky Eaters

Christine's children playing pretending to feed a doll.

Here’s 10 key strategies Karla and I have identified for vegan picky eaters (FYI- as a reminder, you should seek guidance from a licensed healthcare provider. This is not a personalized or comprehensive list.):

  1. Work on your ‘meal time mindset’
  2. Learn about nutrition for vegan kids, and get extra support when needed
  3. Have a meal and snack routine
  4. Offer the same foods to everyone in the family
  5. Watch your language at meal times
  6. Be the example
  7. Practice food play
  8. Involve kids in meal prep (when appropriate)
  9. Offer foods in a different ways
  10. Have compassion for the process

1. Work on your ‘meal time mindset’

As a parent, what things were you told at the dinner table?

Was it to eat all your veggies before dessert? Or: ‘you can’t leave the table until you’ve had one bite of fruit?

This kind of pressure can have unintended consequences. For example a kid who only gets dessert when they eat their veggies might develop an unhealthy view of vegetables.

They are seen only as way to get a reward, which is a mindset I’m guessing you don’t want your kids to have!

Consider the things you use to be told, and how you want to change your mindset. That’s a major first step in fostering a better relationship with food.

2. Learn about nutrition for vegan kids and get extra support when needed

Every vegan parent (or any parent for that matter) needs to learn about nutrition!

You should know the food sources that help support growth and development, as well as supplementation as appropriate to the child’s needs.

As a vegan parent, I recommend you look for credentialed and credible sources with expertise in the vegan pediatric niche.

Karla Moreno-Bryce, MDA, RD, LD from Vegan Kids Nutrition is one of those dietitians with both the practical and personal experience in this specialty area! She has a variety of resources available on her website that you should check out if you are a vegan parent.

Here is a free resource on picky eating that you can snag below!

Make sure that you consult a licensed professional for personal support or if you have concerns.

3. Have a meal and snack routine

Karla stresses the importance of having a meal and snack routine.

This helps kids know that there will be other opportunities to eat, even if they aren’t a fan of one given meal or snack.

4. Offer the same foods to everyone in the family

If the food is medically and texture/size appropriate for everyone, offering the same meal for for all family members fosters a sense of unity, and acceptance for the foods being served. You can also modify food sizes and textures.

Any parent reading this knows that kids are constantly looking up to us!

The same goes for meal times. So if you aren’t eating the food your child is being offered, they may be more reluctant to try it.

5. Watch your language at meal times

Have you ever heard a kid ‘parrot’ the things you commonly say? It’s super common, and goes without saying that they are also listening to our language at meal times!

So it’s important to be cautious about what we say. In my experience with my kiddos, sometimes well meaning language to eat something can really backfire into defiance for trying it.

Karla points out a tip that has helped her with her own feeding experience. For example, if her kid isn’t eating her beans, she might say, ‘I noticed you aren’t eating your beans.’ Instead of ‘You need to eat your beans because they are nutritious.’

Kids – especially young kids, can be fearful of trying new things. Provide a safe environment by letting them explore their feelings around food.

If I sense my kid is picky about a certain food, I might have a conversation about how it looks, feels and tastes.

For example, she enjoys cauliflower, but is having more of a picky phase with broccoli right now. Brining up that both vegetables look like trees but one is white and one is green, is something I do.

This has made her naturally curious, and (in my opinion) helped her try the broccoli!

6. Be the example

As parents, we want what’s best for our kids, am I right?

It’s not enough to just serve the foods we want our kids to be eating – we can be an example by eating them too!

The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ phrase can make picky eating even worse. Let’s try to foster a good relationship with food by being the example.

7. Practice food play

I’m not talking about throwing food across the room here!

Developmental and age appropriate food play is one strategy that may help picky eaters get more comfortable with certain foods.

It’s something that Karla and I have used for our own daughters!

For example, with my older pre-school aged daughter, sometimes we’ll give rhyming names to food.

Names like ‘Christopher Corn’ or ‘Benjamin Bean…’The two go on ‘adventures’ around the other foods.

This has helped my daughter taste them, and with every experience she is learning to be more comfortable with those foods on her plate (or even trying them)!

Food play can also be pretend. For example, pretending to feed dolls. I have lots of fun talking about food with food play!

8. Involve kids in meal prep (when appropriate)

Depending on the child’s age and developmental stage, having your kiddo help in the kitchen may in turn help their picky eating.

Remember, some picky eaters are fearful of foods! So using those foods in a ‘non pressure way’ may encourage them to feel more comfortable with those foods.

As an example, one of my daughters did not like this vegan Greek soup my husband likes to make. He got her involved in making it, and she eventually tried the liquid portion of the soup.

Most recently, she asked to help make it again, and she even ate a bean out of the soup (she is still getting use to certain beans).

If you want to hear more about how gardening has also helped my daughter, check out Plant Powered You’s Patreon!

9. Offer foods in different ways

Have you ever told yourself that you hated a vegetable, and later discovered a new way to cook it that tastes amazing?

The same may be true for your kid!

So if you are convinced they don’t like a certain food, try offering it in different ways/recipes.

Karla has a Vegan Kids Cookbook that does just that! You can read my review of and snag it below.

10. Have compassion in the process

Think about a time you tried or were learning something new.

Was it scary? Exciting? A mixture of both? Something else?

Every child is unique in their feeding journey. Show compassion for the process of eating.

Think back to foods you didn’t like as a child but now love, or at least – are in different to 😉

For me, that was lima beans. and I’m so glad I had compassion for my journey. 💚

I hope you enjoyed this article and podcast episode! Let me know below, what things have helped your picky eater develop a better relationship with food?
If you enjoyed this article, make sure you to become a Plant Powered You ‘Insider’ On my e-mail list, you’ll be sent new podcast episodes, articles, and other cool vegan content from me! I also sprinkle in personal updates and stories to connect with your vegan journey✌

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4 thoughts on “Is Your Vegan Kid a Picky Eater? (10 Key Strategies)”

  1. Although I don’t have kids of my own, I know parents whose kids are vegan but they are slightly picky in their food intake. I strongly believe that the tips in this post will be of help to them. Will definitely share it!

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